Freedom! … ?

On May 16, a number of areas were placed under either General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) that granted some liberties to residents, allowing the reopening of select establishments, including malls, under certain protocols.

But not all cities in the National Capital Region or Metro Manila – particularly those still with high number of infected cases – enjoyed the new normal or the return of certain freedoms.

Many residents were inclined to believe we have resumed the old ways before the COVID-19 pandemic: cars clogging the main highways, throngs invading malls, non-essential stores reopening, etc.

No one’s heeding the warning there could be a second and third wave if we get complacent and let down our guard against widespread transmission by leaving the house and going back to work.

The seemingly festive mood of finally getting out is understandable because of what sociologists describe as the need for social interaction to regain a level of psychological normalcy. The psychological effect of isolation was near breaking point after two months of lockdown.

Despite the usefulness of social media and online video-call platforms, many senior citizens still yearn to personally go to supermarkets, banks, restaurants, remittance centers, etc. because of the need for personal interaction. Video-calls do not provide that.

A second valid reason for throwing all caution out the window is resuscitating the economy. Small businesses are on the brink of collapse. Big companies like airlines have been gravely impacted, what more for eateries and street vendors whose little income bring food on their table.

Unemployment is at all-time high. OFWs are coming home by planeloads. Government will be unable to prop them up with dole-outs. The impetus of government’s Build-Build-Build program will take months to generate enough jobs throughout the country.

Companies, big and small, will have to restart small before resuming normal operations. They cannot expect government subsidies to jumpstart their businesses. Malacañang just disbursed P275 billion to cope with the pandemic. The P8,000 social amelioration cash-out created problems and discontent.

In the US, they plan to print more money to help companies, without raising inflation. Is that applicable to the Philippines?

People see the majority of technically poor Filipinos needing help. We fail to appreciate the middle-class while-collar workers and dozens of business owners who are awash with cash, capable of restarting the economy. They need government incentives.

Instead, the BIR punishes them with higher taxes to shore up depleted government treasury.

Let the middle class spend their money, but provide them with job security. Give tax incentives to business owners to sustain their operations.

Just as we hailed frontliners and extended all kinds of support, we should do the same to the middle-class who is the key to the resurrection of our economy.

Meanwhile, let’s brace for the second wave.

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