PRESIDENTIAL Adviser on Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said that consultations with various business groups seem to show that hopes of reviving the local economy are riding with the country achieving herd immunity, as well as on the safe reopening of businesses using a well-planned implementation of vaccine passes.
“There is a lot riding on achieving herd immunity so we can revive businesses that have been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also hope that vaccine passes can help ease into the new normal without the country backsliding into overrun hospitals and COVID-19 surges,” he said.
Vaccine passes have been floated as a tool for avoiding superspreader events while safely increasing capacities in business spaces.
“The key is herd immunity in the NCR-plus area,” he said. “We have to accept that targeting herd immunity in the entire country will be very difficult. That is why we need to focus first on achieving herd immunity in the NCR-plus area to jumpstart the economy and slowly build from there,” he said.
Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry sees vaccine passes as a good recommendation. “It is something that everyone could use after we attain herd immunity. It would allow the better facilitation of LGUs and businesses to avoid super spreaders and somehow allow our businesses to open near their maximum capacity,” he said.
This was echoed by Eric Teng, who heads the Restaurant Owners of the Philippines (RestoPH) group. Restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic, crippled by total closures and limited capacity requirements at various stages of the mandated lockdowns.
Teng, however, believes in careful implementation of vaccine passes. “Our version of the vaccine pass is not meant as a door to keep people out, but a key to let the vaccinated in,” he said. Teng said there could be 180-day vaccine passes, passes for vaccinated senior citizens, and optional use for businesses in order to avoid issues of discrimination.
Teng also believes that the country does not need to wait for herd immunity to happen before vaccine passes are used. “A vaccine pass can be used as a stop gap, pre-herd immunity management system, for a controlled re-opening of the restaurant industry,” he said.
Retailers, meanwhile, are banking on vaccinations to give people the confidence to live in the new normal knowing that they are safe and secure. “Our retail industry frontliners have long been equally exposed to the virus but they have continued to serve the public,” said Rosemarie Ong, who heads the Philippine Retail Association, the national organization of retailers, shopping centers and suppliers. “The vaccine will give us all a sense of strength that we now have a fighting chance to survive the pandemic and look to a more positive and hopeful future,” she said.
Concepcion said focusing on attaining herd immunity in the NCR-plus area, where majority of both COVID-19 cases and economic activity are concentrated, will have great impact on reviving the economy.
Rex Daryanani of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce calls it a “buhos” approach, where “we deploy all available vaccines and resources nationwide both human and other to the NCR-plus area first to achieve herd immunity faster.” He said this will in turn allow a faster jump starting of the economy and benefit the entire country.
Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) president Sherill Ramos-Quintana agrees. “The key to effectively bounce back the economy is herd immunity, and it has to start somewhere,” she said.
Ramos-Quintana also supports the safe, fast and efficient vaccination program roll outs that will effectively give the people mobility and establishments the opportunity to cater to an increased capacity.
Vaccine passes can also help the domestic tourism industry as it will render redundant the long list of travel document requirements as well as RT-PCR tests. “That’s why it’s important for the implementation of vaccine cards to become a concerted effort across government agencies like the DOH, the IATF, the DILG, local government units, the DOT,” said Concepcion.
Arthur Lopez of The Philippine Hotel Owners Association said that vaccine passes “will allow vaccinated persons greater mobility in traveling around the country, dining and shopping in various establishments” and “usher in the needed confidence to boost domestic travel movement which will augur well for the tourism sector and the future of our economy.”
“We are now at the tipping point,” said George Barcelon, President Emeritus and Chairman for Utilities and Legislative of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “The opening of our economy to sustain business visibility and employment depends on such concerted efforts. We must come to terms and with expectation, the need for mass inoculation, properly managed in a timely fashion with efficient logistics are crucial. For through such actions, public confidence will be restored for more economic activities which will be beneficial to all,” he said.
Concepcion noted that vaccinations have now begun in earnest and that herd immunity may be a possibility for the NCR-plus region sooner than in the entire country. “We are facing an unprecedented event,” he said. “There is no playbook on how to safely transition from vaccination to herd immunity to opening up an economy. That is why we have to start discussing ideas and come up with a strategic plan that is sustainable so that the majority will benefit from it.”
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