US-based Gold’s Gym has filed for bankruptcy, and its 26 gyms across the Philippines have been shuttered since the start of the community quarantine to contain the coronavirus disease 2019. The pandemic continues to devastate many other sectors. Even some private hospitals are warning that they would be forced to close shop as their manpower and facilities are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 crisis.
As of May 23, the pandemic had displaced over 2.75 million workers, according to the Department of Labor and Employment, with over 1.9 million losing their jobs and the rest affected by flexible work arrangements that meant reductions in their earnings. DOLE records show that so far, 102,607 establishments have either closed shop or resorted to flexible work schemes to stay afloat.
Metro Manila, which accounts for much of the country’s economic activity, recorded the biggest closures and job losses, followed by Central Luzon and Calabarzon. The displacements are apart from the flood of overseas Filipino workers returning home after losing their jobs abroad as the pandemic wreaks havoc on livelihoods around the world. There are few employment opportunities waiting for the returning OFWs; workers in the country are hard-pressed to hold on to their jobs.
Even as the world awaits a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, however, countries are gearing up to compete for job-generating investments once people settle into the new normal of doing business. The pandemic has upended global supply chains, and the consequent reforms are likely to be long-term. The Philippines must seize opportunities offered by this disruption to lure investments or provide the goods and services that might be needed as companies adopt to the new normal.
Seizing opportunities means exerting more effort to create an environment conducive for doing business and generating much needed employment, both for local entrepreneurs and foreign investors. The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century crisis. As in any crisis, only the fittest will survive.