‘The first step to economic recovery is to open up the economy’ - PCCI Prexy Barcelon

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President George Barcelon on Wednesday urged the government to open up the economy if it wants to accelerate the country's economic recovery.

‘The first step to economic recovery is to open up the economy’ - PCCI Prexy Barcelon

The statement was made during his participation as a speaker at the press conference of Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC Ph).

"I'm not a medical expert, but I'm just reading all about what other countries are doing that they are opening up– in Singapore and certain parts of the United States and Europe. They have allowed people to self-test so that if there is a cluster of infection, they can capture it early and treat it," said Barcelon.

He proposed that the government repurpose the contact tracing funds and provide self-testing kits instead so people can test themselves.

Early this week, PCCI, the country's largest business organization, issued a statement urging the government to make antigen test kits available for free to help contain the spread of COVID-19 as the country eases restrictions.

"The government should also partner with the private sector as much as it could as we have more visibility on the ground. We discouraged mass lockdowns. We encourage them to do granular instead. We have local chambers that can help coordinate certain areas, and if the numbers are going up, we need to do an isolated quarantine instead of a mass lockdown.

But other than that, I think the time is proper for us to move ahead cautiously. Our enemy, the COVID-19 pandemic, is invisible. So we have to move forward cautiously. But if you take the general populace into the loop that they can test themselves, and I know people are responsible now if they know they are sick, they won't go to work and expose themselves to people. In India and Singapore, the Covid self-testing kit is around 3 USD, which is about 200-300 pesos. I suggested that the government repurpose the money allocated for conducting tracing every year.

Last two years, the government spent billions of pesos hiring people for contact tracing. I would suggest that they repurpose that money to provide and make available affordable testing kits at the barangay level. So once we have confidence, this is purely building confidence in the private sector. It's very important for us to have that confidence not only from an economic point of view but also for education concerns. So that's how we would open up the economy. We don't have to really invent new things or new policies. It's all there. Once the government opens up, including the transportation sector, gradually our economy would recover and rebound," Barcelon explained.

Focus on Early Treatment

The PCCI president also urged the government to focus on early treatment or prophylaxis, one of the advocacy pillars of Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines.

"Earlier, I mentioned that prophylaxis is available. The government now should concentrate more on early treatment. You're bound to be infected. I made a sort of a Google search, and I found out that aside from COVID-19, there are almost, I think, 50 to 80 strains of flu every year in the states, but people don't talk about it. You know, the big pharma just wants to talk about COVID-19.

So flu or COVID-19 is part of our lives. I would think that all the precautions we've taken or the protocols over time have helped us reach this point. It may not be very ideal, but this is what we're seeing going towards 2022. We hope that things will be much better."