MANILA, Philippines — Business owners and workers’ groups in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental province are pushing for selective lockdowns and intensified quarantine measures instead of tightening health and security measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In a joint position paper, the business owners, including members of Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said they were opposing a total lockdown in the city, citing its economic impact on residents already reeling from six months of quarantine restrictions.
While these measures were necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, another total lockdown “will practically erase economic activity,” they said.
“A disregard for the economic impact of any decision made may lead to more businesses closing, increase joblessness, more people falling deeper into poverty and its knock-on effects on peace and order,” they added.
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 placed Bacolod under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from Sept. 8 to Sept. 30 due to the continued increase in COVID-19 cases.
Public transportation is suspended and only a limited number of establishments and offices are allowed to open and operate.
Business owners and residents were surprised over the three-week imposition of the MECQ, citing the lack of notice and discussion among affected sectors.
The business groups are appealing for government intervention to help the local economy, including allowing public transportation in areas considered safe for movement of residents.
They said small and medium enterprises, which are the worst affected by quarantine measures, should also be offered capital.
“While businesses are still recovering and trying to hire, local governments must create jobs and livelihood to fill in job losses and increase the buying power of the community,” they said. These can be in the form of microlending or cash-for-work programs, they said.
Wennie Sancho, secretary-general of General Alliance of Workers Association, said the imposition of MECQ “has compounded the already massive and large-scale unemployment problem, especially that workers cannot go to work due to lack of transportation.”
Sancho, also a labor representative in the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board, said up to 70 percent of local business firms had been affected by the pandemic.
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