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Japanese businesses in Philippines brace for lockdown extension

Men wearing protective masks stand near the village hall during an enhanced community quarantine to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus at the usually busy downtown Manila, Philippines, on April 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA (Kyodo) -- Japanese businesses in the Philippines are preparing for a possible extension of the government-imposed lockdown amid talks it will last for at least two more weeks to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

    Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines Vice President Nobuo Fujii told Kyodo News they are expecting an extension, but cautioned it will be difficult to sustain their operations if the lockdown is prolonged until the end of May.

    "Nonoperating companies are faced to consider staying or not. But based on the existing situation of Japan, it is difficult to return (there)," Fujii said, citing most Japanese companies operating in the Southeast Asian country are in a wait-and-see mode.

    "Some moves (out of the Philippines) will start happening in the middle of May, if it is extended," he said in case of the lockdown, officially known as "enhanced community quarantine" or ECQ, lasting that long.

    Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. Vice President Rommel Guiterrez, who chairs the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, told Kyodo News they are projecting business disruptions due to the pandemic to have a "moderate negative impact" on the automobile industry.

    "We will assess the full impact based on how the industry will recover when ECQ is lifted," Guiterrez said.

    In an online survey by the Japanese chamber among 351 members last March 20 to 24, 83.2 percent of respondents said they expect a negative impact, with 58.4 percent anticipating a "large negative impact" and 24.8 percent foreseeing "some negative impact."

    Due to rising cases of infection by the new coronavirus, the government placed the country's largest and most populous island, Luzon, under ECQ on March 17 to prevent its spread.

    The measure meant strict home quarantine and suspension of travel, albeit with exceptions such as allowing movement of health professionals and transport of goods.

    The quarantine, which is essentially a lockdown as admitted by the authorities, is set to end midnight of April 13, but some officials and lawmakers have called for its extension to flatten the curve of new infections.

    As of Monday, the Health Department has recorded 3,660 confirmed infection case, with 163 deaths and 73 recoveries.

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