CEBU CITY – The multi-sector initiative that is calling for the shift from modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in this city to general community quarantine (GCQ) has gained the support of Environment Secretary and Cebu Overseer for the government coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response Roy Cimatu.
In a meeting with the business sector and local chief executives of Cebu on July 27, Cimatu approved the re-launch of Project “Balik Buhay” (PBB) with the support of the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 in the Visayas.
“I am encouraged by that (PBB) move, I support it. I will encourage that also to other government agencies. I’m very happy naman to be of help really. Totoo yan ha! na I opted to be here in this meeting with the business sector because this is very necessary. The importance really is the indication of success here in Cebu City,” Cimatu said.
Instead of attending the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte last Monday Cimatu opted to meet with the group here in Cebu City to discuss the details of the proposed relaunch of the project.
The PBB calls for the implementation of a calibrated, scientific, and evidence-based transition from MECQ to GCQ.
According to Edmun Liu, chairman of the PBB for the private sector that the they committed to the IATF to update the plan within the week as they tapped health experts to ensure that they can present a thorough plan to include establishing the workplace health standards and regular testing protocols for business establishments to adopt in the new normal.
Liu said that the initial plan of PBB was to establish guidelines to reopen the economy gradually and safely and the meeting with Cimatu was very timely as plans to downgrade Cebu City from MECQ to GCQ by August 1 was also being discussed.
“PBB wanted to find a way to balance the lives and livelihood of the people, while not making it difficult for businesses to reopen,” Liu said.
Liu explained that what the group wanted during the meeting was for Cebu City to be placed under GCQ while the PBB was on-going, and that every sector was willing to do its part. The PBB was the platform to implement the health standards in the workplace and employees are tested before reopening and going back to work. “But the City was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) then which has disrupted the PBB’s goals,” he added.
Liu said that it was the main responsibility of the businessmen or the owners and employers to provide a safe environment in their businesses and in workplaces, that before going back to work, everyone must be safe. It is the responsibility of each businessman to take care of their workers.
“But still we must remember when we go back to work, kailangan safe tayong lahat. “We are ready to work, and we are ready to do our part,” Liu said on behalf of the business sector in Cebu.
The meeting was hosted by Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas with Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan, Talisay City Mayor Samsam Gullas, and Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña.
The private sector was also represented by the Regional Development Council (RDC-7) Chair Kenneth Cobonpue, who is also the co-chair for PBB; Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Felix Taguiam and Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Steven Yu, among others.
Cimatu observed that Cebuanos were now more compliant following the implementation of health protocols being imposed to arrest the spread of COVID-19 in the city.
He has noted a decrease of the positivity rate in Cebu City and explained that the city’s positivity rate has dropped considerably from 30 percent out of 100 Cebuanos tested for COVID-19 last June, to 11 percent in July. “This is a good indicator of the government’s response in the fight against Covid-19,” Cimatu added.
Cimatu noted that the efforts made in Cebu under the PBB will be the first in the country. The PBB strategies can be put into a template and a manual for other parts of the country or local government units (LGUs) to adapt as an integrated approach to COVID-19 response.