Immunizing the workforce

Business leaders are taking great lengths to protect the country’s private sector from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Large companies, as well as small and medium enterprises, are procuring vaccines for their workforce instead of waiting for the government to provide the long-delayed inoculation.

A classic example of good corporate citizenship is the SM Group, now the Philippines’ largest conglomerate in terms of market capitalization. During their annual stockholders meetings last month, SM Prime Holdings Inc. President Jeffrey Lim and SM Investments Corp. President Frederic DyBuncio committed to donate to the government a portion of the 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines they have ordered. Once the supply is available, SM aims to vaccinate thousands of its employees for free within the year.

Like many Filipino companies, South Pacific Inc. (SPI) plans to secure its staff by making available to them Covovax jabs that have been reserved through Unilab Inc. SPI President Iñigo Golingay Jr. said this is in line with the firm’s corporate social responsibility to assist government efforts in achieving herd immunity while caring for the health and continued well-being of its workforce.

Golingay said: “Our people are our priceless assets. Our premium products and impeccable service show the inspiration and talent of our people.” Thus, SPI and its sister company, Republic Gas Corp., have bared a three-pronged vaccination plan for their employees and they expect the vaccines to arrive in the second half of 2021.

Another group that is helping the country build a collective defense against COVID-19 is San Miguel Corp. (SMC). Through its “Ligtas Lahat” task force, SMC is laying the groundwork for its vaccination strategy. The conglomerate is spending almost P1 billion on a program to inoculate all its 70,000 employees and extended workforce for free.

Meanwhile, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and Makati Business Club (MBC) are coursing their orders of seven million vaccine doses for their frontline workers from US manufacturer Moderna Inc. through a private foundation. This was the result of a tripartite agreement signed last March 18 between the national government, the private sector, and Moderna.

In a series of webinars titled “Vax to the Max” jointly sponsored by FINEX, MAP, and MBC, resource speakers explained that the vaccinations are necessary to generate jobs and accelerate economic recovery.

For its part, the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) Task Force headed by Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez has recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the adoption of its eight-point “Employment Recovery Agenda” during the Labor Day 2021 Job Summit.

Recommendations of the NERS Task Force include a wage subsidy for private sector workers amounting to P8,000 per month for a maximum of three months; retooling and upskilling programs to ensure a future-ready Filipino workforce; implementation of youth employability programs; financial relief options for businesses; social protection for vulnerable groups; and the passage of priority legislations such as amendments to the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investments Act.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua has emphasized that prolonging the modified enhanced community quarantine status of the National Capital Region and its four adjacent provinces, collectively known as the NCR Plus bubble, will further constrict economic activities in the second quarter.

The only way to reverse the five consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth is the early vaccination of NCR Plus and other major urban areas. This will lead to the relaxation of quarantine protocols and the much awaited reopening of the economy.

J. Albert Gamboa is a Life Member of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He is the Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly FINEX Digest magazine and the monthly FINEX Focus newsletter. The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect the views of these institutions and the Manila Bulletin.

Source: Manila Bulletin