Businesses in Laguna flag more job displacements with shock lockdown announcement

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 5) — Business owners from Calabarzon were shocked with the news of varying degrees of lockdown announced just hours before the tighter rules take effect. 

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said Thursday night that the province of Laguna, which is home to many commercial plants, will return to enhanced community quarantine on the same day as Metro Manila to curb infections caused by the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

Calabarzon is second to Metro Manila in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks. Cavite, Rizal, and Lucena City were placed under modified enhanced community quarantine, while Batangas and Quezon Province will stay under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions from Aug. 6 to 15.

This is bad news for businesses in the country's manufacturing hub, where even big factories are barely recovering from last year's shutdowns.

Car production

First vice president Atty. Rommel Gutierrez of Toyota Motors Philippines, which operates a car plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna, said a lockdown would mean a production loss of up to 200 vehicles per day and send about 1,000 employees temporarily out of work.

“We are still waiting for the announcement of ECQ but if ECQ is again imposed in Laguna, we have no choice but to stop plant operations,” he told CNN Philippines in a phone interview.

“This is again a step backward. That will really put us into recovery mode again in the coming months to recover lost production during ECQ,” added Gutierrez, who is also president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines.

RELATED: Recovery of job losses due to pandemic may take until 2022 – ADB

Prior to the surprise ECQ decision, which was made just hours before the first day of the week-long lockdown, Gutierrez made an appeal: “‘Wag ‘yung biglaan [Don’t do it hastily]. We also have to plan, especially our production side. There are certain preparations to be made.”

The official said production has risen by 40% from 2020, but this would slump again should lockdowns be enforced. Employees would likely have to render overtime work once restrictions are relaxed to catch up on the monthly and yearly vehicle production targets, Gutierrez added.

Food sector

Meanwhile, food manufacturer Monde Nissin said it does not “foresee any major disruption” in its Laguna plant as they are allowed to keep operating even under the tightest restrictions.

“Although we have been forced to make significant changes to our operations over the past 16 months, we are fortunate that a good portion of our business has proven resilient to the challenges brought about by the pandemic,” it said in a statement, adding that the government has ensured the “unimpeded” movement of goods and workers in the sector.

Transport shuttles are provided to on-site workers, the company added, while adjustments will be implemented in the face of the Delta variant by way of improved ventilation, air filtration, and movement of workers.

More restrictions spoiled the sweet run of startups like Auro Chocolate, which operates a factory in Calamba, Laguna. New product offerings and expansion plans have been shelved to focus on survival.

“We do cater to hospitality, airline, resorts and casinos as well as food service sector and both domestic and exports. With their closure, a huge chunk of our demand then disappears pretty much overnight,” said Kelly Go, co-founder of Auro Chocolate.

“Of course, we understand the Delta variant and it is a grave global concern, but at the same time we have a responsibility also to our employees to continue to give them livelihood considering all the struggles that they've already gone through,” she added.

Go added that the chocolate brand has been close to reviving pre-pandemic sales volumes, only to be disrupted again. She called for clearer policies for public transport, border checkpoints, and limits on movement for the looming ECQ.

“The more lead time the better –– but lead time also with clear details is what would be most appreciated,” she said. “We also want to have a lot of clarity on important services.”