While the enhanced community quarantine over the main island of Luzon will stay at least until April 30, the government should draw up plans for a post-Covid-19 scenario, according to a business sector leader.

Benedicto Yujuico, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president, said business establishments should be opened by phases and not as abrupt as suggested by some sectors.

In an exclusive online interview with Melo Acuna Reports, the PCCI president said everyone should look for remedies as the government slowly opens the economy.

Yujuico said it would not be enough to rely on rice imports, and called for more support for agriculture and aquaculture.

“While the government says we have enough rice for the next three to four months, the government should assure our farmers of the necessary help by extending seeds, fertilizers and everything they need,” the former ambassador said.

He said the country’s experience under Covid-19 should be a lesson for everyone “because for us to be a stronger country, we should be self-sufficient in our food requirements.”

The Philippines, whose farmlands are dwindling, could very well learn from Israel where technology and ingenuity have been the hallmark of agriculture, Yujuico said.

Moreover, the top priority for government should be “to protect and nurture our industry,” he said.

With the global economic and supply chains in disarray, the PCCI chief said the country needs to develop and take advantage of the domestic market.

Asked what the government ought to do to help micro, small and medium enterprises, Yujuico said the distribution of subsidies should be done immediately as he called on the government’s economic managers to seriously consider a simplified process in extending grants to SMEs.

“How I wish the government would guarantee loans from P10,000 to P50,000 for SMEs; legitimate businessmen could avail for themselves the loans (from commercial banks) with a simple certification from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” he added.

He proposed that SMEs accredited by PCCI be given access to loans from private commercial banks.  Should 50 percent of the grantees renege on the terms and conditions and the government shoulders the costs, the loss would still be smaller than outright loss of income and work for the businessmen and their workers.

Yujuico also said the government should improve the flow of goods and enhance the supply chain as bottlenecks might impact on peace and order in quarantined areas.

Ang Pilipino magtitiis hanggang kaya at nararapat makarating ang tulong sa pinakamahihirap,” he said.

He called for the partial lifting of the enhanced community quarantine starting with the public transport sector, to support the slow but steady recovery toward economic normalcy, provided social distancing would be observed.

Yujuico said the government should begin rehabilitating existing transport infrastructures and resume railroad projects and maintenance work of the Metro Rail Transit.

The enhanced community quarantine is the most opportune time to undertake rehabilitation of existing projects, he said, but the government and its partners need to ensure workers are at safe physical distance from each other at worksites.

Industries like cement and steel also need to continue operations to provide employment to skilled workers.

Yujuico said it was time to work together and for every sector to cooperate. (Melo M. Acuña)