By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY – The business community here, through the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), and seven other sectoral associations issued a joint manifesto Friday strongly supporting the appeal of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella on the reclassification of health and security protocols in Cebu City from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ).
“The move to revert Cebu City back to ECQ, based on flawed data analysis and without factoring in the economic aspect, is unacceptable,” read a portion of the manifesto days after the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 placed Cebu City under ECQ.
Aside from CCCI, the other business and sectoral groups which signed the manifesto included the Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CFCCC), Cebu IT BPM Organization (CIB.O), Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) Cebu Chapter, Confederation of Philippine Exporters Foundation, Inc. (PhilExport) Cebu, Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation, Inc. (CFIFI), Cebu Business Club (CBC) and Cebu Leads Foundation, Inc. (CLF).
They manifested their strong concern on the reclassification of Cebu City to the strictest form of quarantine status—ECQ.
The group said that the appeal came after the dialogue they had with the leaders of the Cebu Medical Society (CMS) whose stand was for a stricter implementation of the minimum health standards, regardless of whichever quarantine classification, with the goal of preventing the spread and proliferation of the disease.
In Cebu, and just like the rest of the country, the ECQ had taken a toll on small and large businesses, and resulted to heavy losses, closure of non-essential business activities, and loss of jobs for thousands of people and as a people.
“We now need to install, test and evolve more effective and stricter implementation with enforcement of the health protocols under the new normal,” the manifesto said.
The group went on that while they understood and agreed that public health comes first during this pandemic, there was a greater need to balance public health and the economy thus, the business and private sector have been working with all government units of Cebu City to put in place the conditions for economic recovery.
The business community cited its collaboration efforts with the government through the Project Balik Buhay (PBB) where the tri-cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu have found a way to scale back the quarantine to selective lockdown, as the group shifts focus to saving the economy from complete collapse while at the same time fight the virus spread, the manifesto reads.
After being placed in a GCQ status from June 1-15, Cebu businesses have started navigating the financial and operational challenges of the pandemic, while rapidly addressing the needs of their people, customers and suppliers.
“We have already seen improvement as we slowly ramped up 50 to 60 percent of business activities while complying to the new normal health standards. Just when businesses have already gained momentum in reopening, Cebu City’s return to ECQ has again dampened business confidence,” the statement said.
The ECQ status, according to the group posed a great disadvantage to the business community and the working sector as it created a more exasperating disruption to the region’s economy which might wreak havoc on people’s enterprises and livelihood resulting in more suffering and hunger, the statement added.
The business community and sectoral groups then appealed for the revert of Cebu City’s ECQ status to GCQ as the the business community and the Cebuanos call for a transparent, factual and real-time reporting of COVID-19 data from the local health authorities.
“We strongly urge the Cebu City LGU and Philippine National Police (PNP) for the stricter enforcement of the minimum health standards such as wearing of face masks in public, proper hand hygiene and social distancing, most especially in the outskirts of Cebu City,” the business group said.
The group called for solidarity among government leaders, the business and private sectors and the medical community to continue to engage in more dialogues that will yield the best approach to combat COVID-19 as the country moves forward.
“In these trying times, more than ever, the business community seeks the compassion and understanding of the government and medical experts so our economy and businesses could survive and recover,” the group said.