Business leader in Cebu released today a manifesto supporting the call by Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella for the city to revert to General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

The leaders of various business groups said the decision to place Cebu City under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was based on flawed data. It was also done “without factoring in the economic aspect.”

They also called for “transparent, factual, and real-time reporting of COVID-19 data from local health authorities.” They also asked the Cebu City Government and Philippine National Police for stricter enforcement of minimum health standards on wearing of masks, hand washing, and physical distancing.

While we very much understand and agree that public health comes first during this pandemic, we have come to a point where the need to balance public health with the health of the economy can no longer be delayed.

Cebu business leaders say in signed manifesto

Balance public health, economy

The business leaders also called for more dialogues and solidarity among government, business, private sector, and medical community to come up with the best approach in dealing with the pandemic.

“While we very much understand and agree that public health comes first during this pandemic, we have come to a point where the need to balance public health with the health of the economy can no longer be delayed,” they said in the manifesto.

The statement was signed by the leaders of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CFCCC), Cebu IT BPM Organization (CIB.O), Philippine Retailers Associatiobn (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).

The business leaders said their decision to publicly come out with a manifesto of support for Labella’s appeal came after a dialogue with leaders of the Cebu Medical Society (CMS).

Strictly implement health standards

They said the stand of CMS leaders is for the strict implementation of health standards, whichever is the quarantine classification for Cebu City.

Cebu City is the only local government unit in the country to be under ECQ. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases placed Cebu City under ECQ starting June 16, citing increasing COVID-19 cases.

The business leaders, however, said this increase in cases is a result of aggressive mass testing and contract tracing, “incomparable with any LGU in the country.” They said this led to a high high virus detection and the high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“We believe that that the only way to learn the true extent of this contagion is once population-based COVID testing is undertaken. The Cebu City does not believe in ‘what you do not know, won’t bother you,’” the business leaders said.

They said that the facts and figures presented by Mayor Labella in his appeal is clear indication Cebu City is doing well in its fight against COVID-19.

Heavy economic, jobs losses

They said the ECQ caused heavy economic losses, closure of non-essential business activities, and the unemployment of thousands of people.

Cebu City, along with other local governments in Cebu, was placed under GCQ from June 1 to 15. At this time, businesses in the city started “navigating the financial and operational challenges of the pandemic, while rapidly addressing the needs of their people, customers, and suppliers.”

They said companies started seeing improvements “as we slowly ramped up 50% to 60% of business activities while complying with the new normal health standards.”

They said the move back to ECQ disrupted the momentum that was starting to build for the re-opening of the economy.

The business leaders said the community should adapt and learn to live with the pandemic, instead of waiting for the virus to dissipate. They stressed the need “to balance life and livelihood.”

Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering Cebu City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since...

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