House Ways and Means committee chairman Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said the decision to extend until April 30 the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine was the only logical response to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"History and economics do not show that extension is a trade-off between lives and economic growth," he said.
“Even a modified lifting of ECQ is like choosing disaster twice in both health and in economics: It implies losing more lives of what you save. In economics, it means losing more in the long run. If you extend ECQ, you save more lives and actually recover faster in the future,” he added.
Salceda issued the statement in response to proposals from some quarters for a modified or selective lifting of the ECQ, if not its total termination.
“If anything, the more lives we lose and the more panic this virus creates. If it gets worse, the less our chances are of any quick recovery. Our people and our confidence – these are the two greatest resources in any economy, and they are the only irreplaceable ones,” he said.
The Albay lawmaker cited a recent paper by American economists Correa, Luck, and Verner (2020) which points out that, “during the 1918 flu pandemic, American cities that had longer lockdown periods reduced mortality rate and increased employment rates in the medium-term.”
The paper, he said suggests that “NPIs (no-pharmaceutical interventions such as lockdowns) play a role in attenuating mortality, but without reducing economic activity, and that cities with longer NPIs grow faster in the medium term.”
In January, Salceda filed a bill seeking to create a health emergency framework that would have included the establishment of a Center for Disease Control in the Philippines.
By February 4, he had written an aide memoire to the House leadership on economic countermeasures to COVID-19, including the expansion of health facilities.
A week before the ECQ, the lawmaker called for a lockdown of Metro Manila just as community transmission was discovered.
He had also written President Rodrigo Duterte a five-page report on how subsidies could be released to the public before the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was passed, and a 12-page report on mass testing and post-ECQ measures.
“More often than once a week, we submit some detailed reports to the government and the House leadership. Our reports are not wild speculations. They are based on the best available statistical models, from research, and from my experience as a crisis manager, both in 2003 when we were in very bad fiscal shape, and when I was Governor of the most disaster-prone province in the country,” he said.
Salceda said that based on his policy team’s monitoring, infections are still accelerating.
“To minimize the economic costs,i the most important thing is to keep the lights on to maintain the pre-COVID-19 structure of the economy with as little loss in jobs as possible. That’s why it’s important to lend cheap credit to businesses, provide subsidies to the people, keep our logistics moving, and retool manufacturing towards essential goods,” he said.
“We have to rationalize our supply chain and our system of checkpoints and controls. I recommended to the President a coordinator for production and logistics to handle this matter – something like a Minister of Production during wartime. Economic growth is always in the future. We have many economic tools to restore economic growth, but no economic tool has ever succeeded in bringing the dead back to life,” Salceda added.