Philippine tycoons

Zobel de Ayala pushes for localized lockdowns, mass testing

Ralf Rivas

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Targeted lockdowns and data-driven decisions, instead of freezing Metro Manila again, will curb COVID-19 infections, says Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala

Ayala Corporation chief Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala backed proposals to impose localized lockdowns paired with mass testing, rather than reverting to hard quarantine measures to contain the coronavirus while revving up the economy.

“When relaxing, there’s a psychological effect that begins to take place when moving towards normality. This is going to be around for a while. Testing is something we fully support. Aside from the targeted lockdowns based on data analysis which I support,” the tycoon said in a private Zoom call with government officials and other business leaders on Tuesday, July 28.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, who led the packed video call, provided details to media.

Zobel also said education, along with data-driven decisions, would help fight the pandemic.

“I want to emphasize the teaching [and education] component [and] making use of aggressive data-driven analysis,” Zobel said.

Tycoon Manny Pangilinan also backed mass testing for targeted sectors “given the country’s limited healthcare resources.”

He said the MVP Group will continue to support the government’s efforts in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

Several of Zobel and Pangilinan’s companies were recently criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte in his 5th State of the Nation Address. Without naming names, Duterte slammed the billionaires as oligarchs. (READ: Duterte’s 2020 SONA: Pandemic plan overtaken by obsession with ‘oligarchs’)

Meanwhile, ports and gaming tycoon Enrique Razon Jr emphasized that carefully laid-out plans should be properly executed.

Razon’s group earlier said they have teamed up with the Tropical Disease Foundation and Ayala Healthcare to screen all employees, including those who have been working from home. (READ: No-touch faucets, rapid tests: Big business adjusts to coronavirus)

For his part, Concepcion pushed for a “more surgical and localized approach” in barangays with high COVID-19 infection rates.

“Switching to more granular lockdown measures and giving more power to LGUs (local government units) to enforce the lockdowns is something I presented to the President in a meeting,” said Concepcion, also the founder of Go Negosyo.

“Economic activity may continue and businesses may resume operations, especially MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) who have been extremely challenged by the pandemic.”

He added that reverting to enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila would “destroy businesses and people who are trying to restart.”

Concepcion spearheads Project ARK, a privately-led mass testing initiative.

Ongoing efforts

Cities in Metro Manila have been imposing localized lockdowns for problematic areas. (READ: What we know so far: Duterte admin’s new plan for curbing COVID-19 infections)

“We in Quezon City have been implementing our 14-day lockdowns for a few months now and have been quite successful at it, so I will have to say I agree with the practice,” Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte told Rappler.

Belmonte explained that Quezon City has been implementing “special concern lockdowns,” which last no less that 14 days. Officials identify which areas, up to eskinita or alley-level, to secure.

“Food and other needs for the 14-day period are provided for by the LGU, barangay, and generous donors,” Belmonte said.

All residents in the special concern area are also tested for COVID-19.

“If test results take long to process, the lockdowns may be extended. When results are in, and many or most of the residents are positive, the lockdown will be extended also for another 14 days,” she said.

If only few are positive, these individuals are pulled out and brought to quarantine facilities and the lockdown is lifted.

Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto also agreed with Concepcion’s statements.

“I think it is a more efficient way of doing things. The situation varies differently per barangay, per purok, per street, and even within streets,” Sotto said in a text message.

There are now 85,486 coronavirus cases in the Philippines, the Department of Health said on Wednesday, July 29.

Metro Manila recorded the highest number among the 1,874 new cases on Wednesday – 728 – followed by Cebu with 325. – with reports from Pia Ranada and JC Gotinga/

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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.