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Metro Manila skyline at night (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / JILSON SECKLER TIU)

MANILA, Philippines — Downgrading Metro Manila and 38 other areas to Alert Level 1 for COVID-19 infections will create more jobs — up to around 400,000 to 500,000 jobs — and stimulate economic growth, Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez said on Tuesday.

The number of jobs is then expected to reach as high as 800,000 once more areas are placed under Alert Level 1, Lopez added during the weekly taped “Talk to the People” briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte.

“This will really lessen our unemployment level. This means more employment by maximizing operational capacity,” Lopez said in Filipino.

According to Lopez, the goal now is for the country to reach an unemployment rate that’s lower than what it had before the pandemic.

“Our ambition now is to reduce it [unemployment] to 5 percent, which was where we were pre-pandemic,” he said in Filipino. . From where we stand right now on the unemployment rate, around 800,000 who lost their jobs can now return to work through increased economic activities and increased investments,” Lopez said.

With this, Lopez said that reopening the economy under Alert Level 1 will allow the country to fully recover to the pre-pandemic level in 2019 and even surpass it.

Lopez said that the country is aiming for a growth target of 6% to 7%.

Last Sunday, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) placed Metro Manila and 38 other areas under Alert Level 1.

Under Alert Level 1, intrazonal and interzonal travel will be allowed regardless of the individual’s age and comorbidities.

All activities outside one’s home will be allowed, and establishments are permitted to operate at full on-site capacity provided that health standards are observed.

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