Modified ECQ without mass testing sacrifices workers’ welfare, labor group says

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The “modified” enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) which will be imposed over Metro Manila and two other areas in the Philippines on Saturday will only benefit big businesses while “sacrificing” workers’ welfare, labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (“Assembly of Filipino Workers”) or BMP said yesterday.

The group chided the Duterte administration’s decision to ease the ECQ in most provinces, “allowing select industries to resume operations without sufficient mass testing and adequate health facilities.”

Read: PH gov’t puts Metro Manila, Cebu City, Laguna under ‘modified’ enhanced community quarantine

“President Duterte has yielded to the lobby by capital and technocrats, who have been pushing for the resumption of business since late March. They do not intend to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID19 transmissions and mortality rates. They are more concerned with the flattening of the GDP growth rate, which at the establishment-level is reflected by flat-lining profit margins,” BMP’s President Luke Espiritu said in a statement.

Despite still being considered “high-risk,” areas under the modified ECQ will allow select manufacturing and processing industries to resume operations at half capacity, while “moderate risk” areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ will allow some businesses to reopen at full capacity.


BMP warned that fresh outbreaks in South Korea, China, and Germany, countries which have been earlier praised for their excellent handling of the pandemic, “should make the government more cautious rather than eager to ease quarantine.”

It added that if quarantines are to be eased, mass testing should run alongside it.

“With the easing of the restrictions without sufficient mass testing and adequate health and safety protocols, workers would be sacrificial lambs to the altars of profit. After all, they could easily be replaced by the unemployed millions—the reserve labor force—who could easily be called upon for active yet contractual economic service, at lower wages. To them, falling profit margins are more alarming than rising mortality rates,” Espiritu said.

“Now capitalists are banking on the amplified misery and distress of a quarantined population, who now seek employment without regard to their own safety and welfare,” he added.

Read: Former Health Secretary Cabral supports easing of quarantines but pushes for mass testing

Mass testing for the coronavirus has remained sluggish in the Philippines, and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque had admitted that the Duterte government had failed to reach its goal of conducting 8,000 daily tests by end of April. Health Secretary Francisco Duque, however, said that his department had targeted 10,000 daily tests with the same deadline.
Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral yesterday said that while reopening businesses is necessary for the economy, the country has simply “not done enough testing” and urged the government to do more.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country are now at 11,618, with 772 deaths, and 2,251 recoveries.

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