Opinion

No early relief in sight

No early relief in sight

With the arrival of COVID vaccines still uncertain amid controversy over the nationwide vaccination campaign, businesses are seeing no relief in the near future as the country enters its 11th month of pandemic quarantines.

The uncertainty is causing businesses to shut down indefinitely. Some investment departures may be for good. Last Wednesday, the Makati Shangri-La, one of the busiest five-star hotels in the country before the pandemic, announced that it would temporarily cease operations beginning next month and would be letting go of a still unspecified number of its workforce.

The assistance package promised to the employees indicates the length of the shutdown: the hotel will give the displaced workers not only financial compensation but also healthcare coverage and even grocery support until the end of the year. The hotel, which has been operating since 1993, reportedly sees slow recovery prospects. It was allowed to reopen for staycations last October, but business clearly has been underwhelming. If such a major hotel is foundering in the pandemic, what’s it like for the smaller ones?

The travel and tourism industry was among the first and continues to be among the sectors worst hit by the economic impact of the pandemic. But many other sectors are also reeling, with enterprises likely to close shop as the vaccination program crawls along.

Last Thursday the Department of Trade and Industry announced that Nissan Philippines is ending its car assembly in the country this March. The company said it would be letting go of 133 employees at its assembly plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna. The decision was reached amid poor sales of Nissan Almera vehicles, according to the DTI. In line with its commitment to remain engaged in the Philippines, the company will continue marketing and distributing Nissan vehicles imported from its manufacturing sites in Thailand and Japan.

As indicated by administration officials, the initial vaccination of frontliners will start no earlier than March, even as a more infectious COVID variant has arrived in the country. Nationwide inoculation is expected only in the third quarter. Another half a year of waiting for relief will be fatal for many more enterprises, from micro to large-scale. The government must get its act together and speed up the rollout of a credible vaccination program that is acceptable to Filipinos.