Senator Cynthia Villar wants to let workers from the agriculture, construction, and manufacturing sectors return to work. This is to prevent the widespread hunger, social unrest, and criminality that might be triggered by the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in many parts of the country.
In an earlier statement, Villar expressed concern that the extended ECQ is already taking its toll on the poor’s employment situation. She explains that “more realistic and sustainable measures should be put in place” by the government. This would make it easier for the economy to recover once the lockdown is fully lifted.
Senator Cynthia Villar is the chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food. She recommends opening labor-intensive sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and construction.
She explains that despite the agriculture sector being in full-swing, allied industries have limited or ceased operations. This displaces food manufacturing workers, as well as limits the food supply.
“With the extension of the ECQ for another half month, we need to intensify food production as well as ensure the unimpeded flow of fresh produce and food products all over the country,” said Villar.
Construction and manufacturing sectors adversely affected
Villar cites media reports that those employed in construction and manufacturing sectors are adversely affected by the ECQ. That due to the work stoppages, many workers are not only stranded, but are also without any income.
“As we all know, workers in construction and manufacturing are daily wage earners who are compensated on a ‘no work, no pay’ basis. They have no source of income while on ECQ. While the government and companies may have extended financial assistance and relief goods, those will not be enough,” said Villar.
She cites government data to paint a better picture. The agriculture industry comprises 22% of workers in the country. Manufacturing comprises 10%, and construction another 10%. In 2018, records showed around 3.9M construction workers. Workers in manufacturing industry are about the same.
Open, but still follow health and safety protocols
Senator Villar said that the ECQ should also be not dependent on just location, but on industry types or sectors as well.
“We should remember that 70 percent of the gross domestic product of the Philippines is in the National Capital Region, CALABARZON and Central Luzon. And if we do not practice partial lockdown in these areas, we lose 70 percent of our gross domestic product.” she said.
She explains that to combat the health risks involved, workers would still have to follow government-implemented health and safety protocols. This includes social distancing and wearing face masks. In addition, employers should make sure that they are compliant with these guidelines. Villar suggests even providing shuttle services to ensure employees get to work.