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As the Philippines mulls less restrictive quarantine, what could this mean for its nightlife industry?

Under new proposed adjustments, cultural sites, movie theaters & more public attractions may soon reopen

  • Samantha Nicole
  • 23 February 2021
As the Philippines mulls less restrictive quarantine, what could this mean for its nightlife industry?

The Philippines’ InterAgency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) have both recommended placing the country’s capital region under looser quarantine measures. Now, it’s up to President Rodrigo Duterte to decide.

The country’s COVID cases are nearing the 600,000 mark with deaths at over 12,000. A proper nationwide vaccination rollout continues to be up in the air. On the other hand, the Philippines is agonized by an income loss of around ₱1.04 trillion in 2020, about ₱2.8 billion lost each day.

It would be the first time for the capital to be put under fewer restrictions since the start of the pandemic. This means Metro Manila may be seeing more businesses opening soon, including public attractions like movie theatres, gaming arcades and cultural sites.

“To be frank with you, even if other places of business are reopened, if we are unable to vaccinate our health-care workers, we will just have to reimpose restrictions once our facilities get overwhelmed and our front-liners start getting sick again. House tax chief Albay Rep. Joey Salceda explains. “Opening is one thing, getting customers to spend is another.”

On the road to tourism recovery

As more details await the public, the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT) are keen to welcome more visitors to renowned heritage site Intramuros as an announcement of its reopening was made on February 17.

"Intramuros is ready and prepared for its reopening following the easing of quarantine restrictions and the minimum health and safety standards set for parks, plazas, open spaces, heritage sites and museums," said Puyat who is also the Intramuros Administration (IA) Board of Administrators Chairperson.

The historic walled city attracts millions of visitors each year and has seen a flourishing age of revival pre-pandemic, with diverse events including UNKNWN’s monumental party with Hunnee and a recent collaboration with Filipino musicians for an online concert.

More questions unanswered

With other establishments being given a go signal, what happens now in the nightlife and events sectors? Numerous bars and clubs have shut down while others are struggling to shift and make income more stable.

“NEDA’s recommendation to open up the economy is a movement we would like to support as this will help alleviate issues of unemployment and perhaps give workers, artists and business owners a fighting chance to survive this global disaster,” nightlife and events proprietor Anna Ong explains. “Along with NEDA’s recommendation, we hope that clear rules and regulations are set in place so there are no grey areas and business owners are not at the risk of their businesses being shut-down due to unclear city mandates.”

Along with vague protocols, and what is still a questionable future, health and safety remain the most certain element all business owners agree to uphold.

“Cultural hubs will definitely get its much-needed crowd again. Most institutions have been shifting towards online viewings or gatherings but who wants to live like that permanently?” fellow nightlife and food business owner Martin Ledesma wonders. “Nocturnal spaces will get a small boost, bars and clubs will still be a hotspot for possible covid infections. I believe that owners should still be very wary and operate with maximum safety precautions.

While the president has yet to officially comment on the joint recommendation by IATF and NEDA, which continue to skip on other sectors that have severely suffered since the pandemic hit, venues that have been closed since mid-March 2020 continue to suffer, with some having already closed.

"Needless to say, it has been an uphill battle for all of us in the live events/nightlife industry especially for the staff and artists who depend on live events for their income,” Ong adds.

[Images via Rappler, ABS-CBN, Expedia, UNKNWN & Tatler Philippines]