Leaked notes from gov’t-businessmen video call ‘not policy’ – PCCI president

Ralf Rivas
Leaked notes from gov’t-businessmen video call ‘not policy’ – PCCI president
Billionaires and government officials discuss the impact of an extended coronavirus lockdown and where to source funding. A businessman tells Rappler they were simply 'brainstorming.'

MANILA, Philippines –  A businessman clarified details of a video conference call between government officials and influential business personalities, saying that it was simply “an exchange of ideas” to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Notes of the discussion listed by an unidentified person circulated online, enumerating supposed “key takeaways” from the call.

These were some of the points and recommendations raised in the leaked notes:

  • Another lockdown “will be more damaging,” a possible two-week extension of the “enhanced community quarantine” is on the table.
  • A modified, “selective” lockdown and barangay-level quarantines are options.
  • More taxes are needed to fund stimulus programs.
  • Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia would lead the post-lockdown planning.
  • Select modes of transportation may be rolled out.
  • Malls will have to remain closed.
  • The checkpoint system for cargo should be eliminated.
  • Manufacturing must be restarted. Provide transportation for workers.
  • Ayala data scientists estimated that the peak of the infections could be around mid-May up to mid-June.

Some of the officials in the video call were Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, National Task Force COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, Agriculture Secretary William Dar, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno.

Business tycoons present were Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Hans Sy, Kevin Tan, Lance Gokongwei, Mike Tan, George Barcelon, Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Tennyson Chen, Paul Dominguez, and Ginggay Hontiveros.

On Tuesday, March 31, Rappler spoke to Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), about the leaked notes.

According to Barcelon, the notes were “somebody’s personal point of view” and no consensus was reached.

“Government officials were there to hear from the private sector what our suggestions are that can be considered, but it was like a town hall meeting. And I know there is a note that’s being circulated, but that is not, that meeting was an exchange of ideas, but it’s not some sort of decision-making,” Barcelon said.

He added that some statements in the notes may have been “misinterpreted.”

Barcelon said there were other suggestions made that were not in the leaked notes.

“Ang maganda lang, they are reaching out to the private sector para alam nila [ang] certain things that they have to focus on. That’s it. It was a town hall meeting. Walang desisyon, speculation, wala ‘yan,” Barcelon said.

(The good thing is, they are reaching out to the private sector so that they know certain things that they have to focus on. That’s it. It was a town hall meeting. No decisions made, speculations, none of that sort.)

Another businessman, who requested anonymity, confirmed that the bullet points were “accurate,” but did not mean that these were the “recommendations of the entire business community.”

The businessman, who was also in the call, confirmed as well that the officials and personalities mentioned were “more or less accurate.”

Meanwhile, two of Rappler’s sources sent Concepcion’s statement on the incident. The presidential adviser warned that leaks should not happen again.

“Our office has not released any minutes and has no intention of doing [so] as the objective here is to come up with a proposal to the Cabinet on the post-lockdown scenario assuming it does happen, just for [the] private sector to prepare,” Concepcion said.

He said the businessman who jotted down details was only writing down “his own notes.”

“I hope we respect the rules which are very clear from the beginning. We don’t want to add to the Cabinet secretaries so many problems. We hope moving forward this should never happen,” Concepcion said.

In an interview with ANC, Concepcion said he is pushing for barangay-based quarantines, once the Luzon-wide lockdown proves to be successful in containing the virus. – Rappler.com

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.