President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said the economy could get reopened soon despite the steadily growing number of Covid-19 cases, so people could go to work and earn money.

“We cannot be forever under strict quarantine protocol because people are getting hungry. They have to work, to eat, to survive,” Duterte said during the inauguration of several development projects at the Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport.

The reopening could come in “weeks,” said Duterte.

“I have to reopen the economy. I have given a timetable, just weeks… The economy must be opened in a short while. Kaya kung paspasan na ‘yang bakuna, tutal umabot na. If it reaches the big cities, okay na,” he added.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, four million Filipinos were unemployed in January 2021, giving the country an 8.7-percent unemployment rate.

Duterte urged the public to adhere to the country’s health protocols as the government tries to reopen the economy.

“As we do our best to revive our economy and give our people the opportunity to recover and lead better lives, I appeal to everyone to please continue observing the prescribed health and safety protocols, whether in our homes or in public places, especially transport,” he said.

“It is only with everyone’s cooperation that the nation can effectively contain the spread of Covid-19 and triumph against the pandemic.”

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez in February said it was time for the country to reopen its economy to help address hunger and unemployment issues that have arisen amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but without relaxing health protocols. John Ezekiel J. Hirro