CONCEPCION: Keep Opening the Economy to Save Jobs & Livelihood

In a meeting held at the Malacanañ Palace with President Rodrigo Duterte, last April 13, Concepcion highlighted strategies on how to revive the economy in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion highlighted the importance of keeping the economy open to save both lives and livelihood including jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At this point in time, many of our micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) including the large enterprises, have been greatly affected and suffered from the impact of this pandemic. Many have lost their hard-earned businesses, especially our micro and small entrepreneurs. These businesses were a product of their hard work, blood, sweat, and tears over the years, and overnight because of COVID-19, a lot have been taken out. In effect, many jobs have gone as well,” Concepcion stated.

Concepcion also shared the number of people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, “Unemployment rose to an all-time high of 17.7% in April, leaving 7.3 million Filipinos jobless. 1.4 million people were displaced due to the temporary closure of establishments and about 600,000 personnel reported reduced incomes due to modified working arrangements. Many sectors have been greatly affected, this includes the non-essential manufacturing sector, retail, clothing, fashion, exports, as well as the tourism sector. The arts and entertainment sector was among the hardest hit, with more than half (54%) of workers losing their jobs while the accommodation and food services and construction sectors also posted sharp declines in employment.”

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) estimates that as many as 10 million Filipino workers could lose their jobs this year due to the pandemic, up from an initial estimate of four to five million.

“The cost to the economy at this point in time is enormous. You can see the number of people losing their job because the economy is restricted because we are managing the infection level. The only way is to follow the protocols of social distancing and all of that which will restrict the businesses from operating viably, that’s a fact,” said Concepcion.

“In order to save jobs and livelihoods, we believe that keeping the economy running is key.  Testing is very important as we gradually reopen the economy. That is why we have been doing our Test! Test! Test! Initiative. The private sector is also working closely with the government to curb the pandemic. We have been using various testing methods such as rapid test and PCR (swab testing). We are also doing another new strategy/method which is called pooled testing to further give us more visibility with the widest coverage possible,” he added.

“I’m glad that Project ARK-PCR initiative, under the Go Negosyo program, has adopted the recommendations of the Philippine Society of Pathologists and we are now in the process of tapping a number of hospitals that have supported to be the initiators of pooled PCR testing. Ibig sabihin po nito, we still swab all the vulnerable asymptomatics, pool their samples into 10, test them as one and the result will be fewer kits utilized, maximized government resources, early test results, and most importantly, early isolation," ARK-PCR Private Sector Chief Implementor Jannette Garin said in an earlier interview. "If you have a hundred thousand kits, that will be enough to test one million people."

In a pooled testing strategy, samples of multiple individuals are analyzed in a single PCR test. If a positive result comes from a single batch of pooled tests, further individual assessments will be made. Countries such as China, Germany, and Israel are among those doing pooled testing, which could serve as a guide for countries seeking to make more productive use of limited test kits.

Concepcion launched Project ARK last April 23 which links public and private sector players as part of a massive, targeted campaign to detect and screen carriers of the virus. The initiative has generated over 1.2 million rapid test kits from more than 300 partner companies. Also, through the help of Garin, the initiative has activated and automated 11 hospitals, supplementing an additional 12,000 daily testing capacity.