Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion announced Tuesday that the business community, through the initiative of “Go Negosyo Project ARK” and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), will extend support to the Province of Cebu in mitigating the surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.
“Controlling the health situations well will allow us to control and avoid letting go of people and save jobs and livelihood, especially for the MSMEs who are struggling right now. Cebu will definitely rise above this challenge,” Concepcion said in a virtual presser after a virtual meeting between the private sector and the government.
He also reiterated the strong commitment of the private sector in helping the province of Cebu.
“The private sector will really work with different chambers. We will help support whatever programs the chamber has. We will work with the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and the approach is mutual trust and cooperation. Our goal is to save as many lives as possible and sustain the jobs and livelihoods of our people,” Concepcion said.
Chief Implementer of National Policy on COVID-19 Carlito Galvez Jr., who was among those present in the virtual meeting, emphasized that the private sector and the government should work hand-in-hand to mitigate the spread of the disease in Cebu.
“We want to mobilize all the support katulad ng ginawa natin sa (like what we did in) Manila. We have created a lot of quarantine areas, and centers. We also called for support to boost the morale of the front liners and/or warriors fighting every day, provide frontliners relief from months of exposure, encouraging messages, small amenities to give relief, expand quarantine areas, boost testing capacity to quickly identify asymptomatics. In all this, we need people’s self-awareness and discipline to protect themselves and the people around them,” Galvez said.
Project ARK, which has the support of conglomerates, companies, business organizations, and associations around the country, will tap CCCI, Mandaue Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), and other business chambers in Cebu to assist in fighting the disease.
Part of the immediate steps discussed in the dialogue is to strategically put up dialysis centers inside various malls for renal patients. With these centers, renal patients will be shielded from possible exposure in hospitals where there are COVID-19 patients and medical personnel who are possibly exposed to the dreaded disease, too.
SM Investments Corp. Vice Chairman Tessie Sy-Coson expressed her commitment to this strategy of putting up dialysis centers in malls.
“Once approved, a temporary 90-square meter facility can be set up within seven days in which it can be converted into a more permanent set-up after two weeks and eventually can be used for long-term dialysis,” ARK-PCR Private Chief Implementer Rep. Jannette Garin
“Basically, it’s providing a center that will temporarily serve and will be converted into a permanent [one], where non-COVID patients will be protected and their dialysis sessions will be ongoing,” she said.
Garin also shared that they can explore implementation of expanded pooled testing in Cebu as part of the research that is currently being conducted by the team, “We will test 10,000 individuals in Cebu in partnership with our partner-hospitals. We can move forward after the proposal that we’re going to discuss tomorrow…turned over to the city and the province. The business sector can handle that moving forward.”
Presidential Assistant for Visayas Micahel Dino explored the possibility of setting up a private sector-led fund to increase the salaries of healthcare workers at the frontline. “The best way to move forward and help our frontliners, maybe we can have this Bayanihan fund [where] we can give P5,000 each [to] frontliners each month. We can boost their morale to show that we really care. Without our frontliners, I don’t think we can fight this pandemic,” he said. “This shows them that we, businessmen, care.”
Following a sharp increase in infections in the past few weeks, Cebu City is emerging as a likely hotspot of COVID-19 in the country. “Our next action should be more surgical and strategic with proper guidelines. Since the number of cases is drastically increasing, we focus the mission of our initiative (Project ARK), on the southern part of the country. This way, we can gauge and screen a specific city or barangay,” said Concepcion.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, ARK Project Lead Josephine Romero, Wilcon Depot founder and chairman emeritus William Belo, Aboitiz Equity Ventures president and CEO Sabin Aboitiz, LT Group President and COO Michael Tan, PCCI chairman emeritus George Barcelon, Fil-Indian Chambers of Commerce Chairman Rex Daryanani, members of CCCI, among others were also present during the virtual presser to express support for the initiative.
“It is critical that we test, trace, and treat. Project ARK has taken the steps to boost testing, while the government has made great strides, under the leadership of Sec. Galvez, to construct more COVID-19 facilities. On contact tracing, a study estimates that we can reduce the need for testing by a factor of 10, and this has also been relayed to Congress,” Concepcion concluded.
Aside from Concepcion and Galvez, also present during in the virtual meeting were Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Roy Cimatu, CCCI President Felix Tagium, and Go Negosyo mentor and CCCI past president Virgilio “Nonoy” Espeleta, along with several conglomerates and business chambers in Cebu.