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Pursuing the faster deployment of COVID-19 vaccines is the only way to keep the economy afloat while the Philippines sees another spike in new infections, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila President Emmanuel Leyco said.

A return to lockdowns would potentially do more harm than good even while new cases reach close to 5,000 daily, as this would push more people into hunger, joblessness, and poverty. 

“Kapag bumabagsak ang ekonomiya, maraming nawawalan ng hanapbuhay. At kung nawawalan ka ng hanapbuhay, tumataas pa ang presyo ng mga bilihin, para kang ginigipit kaliwa’t kanan,” President Leyco said during a Sunday interview with Henry Omaga-Diaz. 

“Kailangang bigyan natin ng pag-asa ang mga mamamayan sa pamamagitan ng pagdating ng mga bakuna at sa pagpapatupad ng rollout. Pangalawa, ang pagbibigay ng liwanag kung ano ang ating magiging kabuhayan,” he added. 

The country has only received about a million doses of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines so far, which are currently allotted for health frontliners and uniformed personnel. 

Around 4 million Filipinos remained unemployed as of January, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported recently, higher than the 3.8 million reported in October 2020. Resorting to another lockdown would drive up the tally, meaning more families will have fewer income and will be able to buy even less as food prices are also surging. 

Many remain afraid to head out without getting vaccinated. 

“Kapag ni-lockdown natin, tuloy na naman ang pagsasara ng ekonomiya at patuloy na naman ang pagbagsak ng ating kabuhayan,” the PLM president said. 

He pointed out that the pandemic exposed the weaknesses of the local economy, such as its heavy reliance on remittances from overseas Filipino workers. Now that thousands of them have flown home amid the global crisis, households have less and less to spend. 

President Leyco also continues to call for sustained subsidies or ayuda to the country’s poorest to ensure they have enough for their basic needs through these dark times. 

Watch the full interview at the 1:19:00 mark: