BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA
The business sector in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City again expressed concern over the economic impact of the lockdown due to the coronavirus disease.
In a position paper released yesterday, the business community said quarantine measures are necessary to stop transmission in its tracks but specific measures to be taken should consider the balance between slowing down the rate of infections and its impact on the economy.
Local government units must properly weigh the health and economic factors and consequences in the fight against Covid-19, the group stressed.
Bacolod City was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine status from September 8 to 30, and residents are required to observe strict home quarantine while public transportation was suspended.
But for the business community, “another total lockdown will practically erase economic activity.”
“The people of Bacolod and Negros Occidental are already suffering from the impact of the economic downturn due to the quarantine measures imposed earlier in the year,” they added.
They stressed that disregarding the economic impact in any decisions made may lead to more businesses closing, increased joblessness, more people falling deeper into poverty, and the knock-on effects on peace and order.
The business group also appealed for measures that will keep the local economy afloat so as not to make it difficult to revive the economy once this period of restricted living is over.
“First, granular or localized lockdowns should be an option. Only those areas with problems or with high Covid-19 transmission rates should be placed under lockdown. More so, allow public transportation to operate in areas that are safe for movement,” it stressed.
The group also stressed the need to be proactive by having virus containment and business continuity plans. “The LGU should have plans to help us determine whether we are winning or losing,” they added.
Third, there is need to recapitalize small businesses, especially those that have closed due to the pandemic to help stir local economy, it said, adding that LGUs must create jobs and livelihood to fill in job losses and increase the buying power of the community.
Last night, the business community met with IATF-Visayas chief deputy implementer Melquiades Feliciano, Assistant Secretary for the Visayas Jonjie Gonzales, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of Department of Health in Central Visayas, and Rep. Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) to air their concerns.
Silay City Councilor Ryan Gamboa, president of the Philippine Councilors’ League Negros Occidental chapter, said that Feliciano reiterated his assurance to Negrenses that “two weeks from now, we will start to gain ground”.
Benitez emphasized the importance of “contact tracing as crucial in identifying pathways of contagion,” Gamboa added.*