Philippines - Current situation (update): Extension of quarantine regulations

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published on 23 April 2020 | reading time approx. 4 minutes

  

Since the start of the so-called "Enhanced Community Quarantine" ('ECQ') on 15 March, the number of people infected with the corona virus has risen significantly from 110 to 5,453 confirmed cases. For a few days now, the Philippines have thus been holding an undesired top position in ASEAN, closely followed by Indonesia (5,136), Malaysia (5,072) and Singapore (3,252).

 

  

  
 

The increase in the number of deaths over the same period was 341 (from the original 8). With regard to the above comparison, only Indonesia currently has more cases (469). The Philippine mortality rate is relatively high in comparison to the confirmed cases, although this is partly due to the fact that initially only a limited number of laboratory facilities and Covid test kits were available. It was not until 14 April 2020 that testing began on a somewhat more comprehensive basis. On the other hand, the number of deaths is almost as high as the number of confirmed cases in which patients have recovered from the disease. The majority of cases are essentially limited to the National Capital Region and Luzon. Increasingly though also in the region around Davao in Mindanao.


Official information from the Philippine Department of Health can be found at www.ncovtracker.doh.gov.ph.

 

Content:

 

Enhanced Community Quarantine prolonged

The quarantine regulations for the National Capital Region around Metro Manila and Luzon have recently been extended by another two weeks until April 30, 2020.

 
The main measures are described in our report of March 13.

 
In addition to the previous report, some individual districts have partly imposed stricter regulations (particularly with regard to curfew and, for example, also alcohol consumption).

 
In addition, a number of provinces, cities and districts, some with their own regulations, have gradually joined the measures of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, distributed throughout the Philippines.

 
In the fifth week of the ECQ, initial questions of application and interpretation have to a large extent been clarified step by step. Several minor adjustments to the rules and regulations as well as alternative solutions have been provided. For example, there are fewer challenges at the checkpoints with regard to the permitted movement of people and goods. Companies and authorities have even been able to find exceptional solutions for public transport, which has come to a standstill. In case of doubt, people have to walk (sometimes over longer distances).

 

Travel/Visa Restrictions

In addition to the travel restrictions already mentioned in March, there is now only a significantly reduced range of flights accessible to or from the Philippines (especially Metro Manila). For example, the national carrier Philippine Airlines has suspended regular flight operations until further notice. Individual "sweeper" flights are currently still being operated by various nations to bring back stranded vacationers. The German Embassy is closed to the public, but can be reached via the emergency number in urgent cases. A total of seven return flights have been organized by the German Embassy. The repatriation program has now been completed.

 
Apart from the limited number of flights, foreign nationals are allowed to leave the Philippines. Since 22 March 2020, the issuance of entry visas has been discontinued with few exceptions.


Special regulations have been issued for expired visas and other residence requirements.

 

Deadlines for Submission/Payment

In a flood of circulars, advisories, press releases, etc., the individual state authorities have issued numerous regulations, in addition to guidelines for dealing with the ECQ, which delay many deadlines for the submission of applications and declarations as well as for payment obligations.

 
In many cases, the rule of thumb may be summarized as follows: during the ECQ, no applications have to be submitted or payments due have to be made in due time. This includes in particular many tax matters and matters of social security law and the "commercial register". As a rule, the transaction must be made up though within 30 days after the ECQ being cancelled (without penalty payments or interest). However, we recommend this to rather be clarified for each individual case.

 
In particular, the tax authorities and social security institutions recommend - if possible - that transactions nevertheless be carried out (online). At Rödl & Partner we are well prepared for this thanks to our focus on the digitalization of work environment, and in consultation with our clients we try to carry out all possible transactions, in compliance with ECQ regulations, as far as possible with a "business as usual" credo. We expect that after the withdrawal of the ECQ, the authorities will be extremely busy with transactions accrued throughout the ECQ. In this respect, we follow the advice of many authorities and recommend that clients who are not (yet) serviced by us do the same. We will of course be happy to provide any possible support.

 

State Support Measures

In a special session on 24 March 2020, the Senate of the Philippines granted additional powers to President Duterte to enact supplementary emergency measures. By law, the President is required to report weekly to the Senate on the progress and measures taken. On the other hand, the regulations also enable the President to put together comprehensive fiscal aid packages to combat the corona virus and to set up economic stimulus packages. The current version of the aid measures comprises a financial volume of the equivalent of around 21 billion Euro. This corresponds to 7 per cent of the Philippine gross domestic product. The amount will be divided into three main pillars: (1) Emergency aid to combat the coronavirus (approx. EUR 645 million); (2) emergency aid during the ECQ for particularly affected population groups (approx. EUR 5.5 billion); (3) economic stimulus package to maintain and revive the Philippine economy.

 

Perspective

While at the beginning of the ECQ, analysts were still assuming an economic growth of 5 to 6 per cent in 2020, the latest estimates now tend to be much more pessimistic, with a result between negative growth and a maximum plus of 3 per cent. The Philippines would then still perform relatively well in international and direct Asian comparison.

 
Some analysts also argue that ASEAN as a whole and the Philippines could recover relatively quickly by international standards. This is supported by, among other things, strong regional trade and consumption, the experience of SARS and the financial crisis and the young working population, which is particularly true for the Philippines. The latter population group has a stronger tendency to boost consumption and is probably better equipped to adapt to changing conditions in times of the "New Normal". Once again, this attribute is particularly true for the Philippines, which has learned to adapt to socio-economic changes and cutbacks due to political capers in the longer past, an unfortunate number of natural disasters, etc. Furthermore, the excellent economic conditions of the pre-crisis period remain unchanged [large domestic market; wealth of resources; young, committed, well-educated and English-speaking workforce with a certain cultural proximity to "Western values"].

 
However, the Philippines does have its own challenges to contend with. Nonetheless, a look at past global crises also shows that the Philippines have always coped relatively well with such stress situations. This is also reflected in current everyday life. In spite of a strict "lock down" for five consecutive weeks, political disagreements, a modest health care system, logistical challenges, workers who can hardly feed their families due to company closures, etc., the Filipinos react relatively calmly and make the best of the situation (again).
Furthermore, it is important to observe the situation closely. Especially as the number of cases continues to rise. It remains to be seen whether the ECQ will be extended beyond April 30 or possibly (early) switched to relaxed quarantine regulations.

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