As Cebu’s economy starts to recover, Project Balik Buhay (PBB) will serve as a road map for businesses to open safely.
Edmun Liu, Project Balik Buhay chairman for the private sector, presented the renovated Project Balik Buhay, which addresses the role of the private sector in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. The representatives of the business sector and the mayors of the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay and the municipalities of Consolacion and Minglanilla were present during the meeting.
Liu reiterated that the basic PBB strategy is to reopen the economy gradually and safely and to avoid exceeding the health care capacity. To win the fight against COVID-19, he added that three components must be observed. These are Compliance to Health Standards; Consistent Community Testing and Tracing to help catch the infection and Critical Care Capacity Management.
“Why are these three (components) important? It’s all about confidence. The moment we are able to improve business confidence, consumer confidence, economic activity will resume,” Liu pointed out. “If people are so scared, they don’t know where to go; they don’t know which establishment is safe as humanly as possible, then people will not spend and there will be no economic activity.”
The revised PBB comprises of the following five requirements for businesses so they could open:
– Appointment of a designated health infection and prevention control officer (HIPCO);
– Submission of duly signed statement of management responsibility;
– Compliance to all general guidelines in accordance with latest IATF and Departments of Trade and Industry, Labor and Employment and Health and the local government units’ guidelines;
– Compliance of latest industry-specific guidelines as set by the relevant regulatory agencies for the industry; and,
– Randomized testing and contact tracing protocols.
Meanwhile, retired Maj. Gen. Melquiades Feliciano, deputy overseer of IATF in Cebu, considers the program a welcome development.
“This (PBB) is very timely for the business sector to have these initiatives as early as now. We’d like to congratulate those who initiated this program,” Gen. Feliciano said.
He also emphasized the importance of having PBB implemented in the businesses since there would be more movement. “We should be more vigilant.”
He noted that the COVID-19 situation in Cebu City has improved. “As far as the Emergency Operations Center is concerned, we are really slowly gaining ground in the control of the virus.”
Gen. Feliciano cited as an example the recommendation of one of Cebu City barangays to place three areas under lockdown because of rising cases, which is now under consideration. “This is a good sign. We will continue doing this.”
He also pointed out the improvement in Cebu City’s mortality. “There’s more than 70 percent drop in mortality, comparing to the second and third week of the month (of July). This is a marked improvement, progress. We will always endeavor not just to maintain but to improve some more.”
Gen. Feliciano also stressed the importance of replicating the measures implemented in Cebu City in the businesses but in nearby cities and municipalities as well.
Secretary Michael Dino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, then appealed anew to the private sector to do their part in the fight against COVID-19.
“I think businesses have realized they really have to do some randomized testing. At the same time, they have to be responsible for their own people,” Secretary Dino said.
He noted that even if just one of their employees would become positive of COVID-19, it would have an impact not only in the workplace but also when they return to their families.
“If you make your workers safe, you are always safe. Naa god mo sa usa ka community, usa ka lugar. Di gyod na pwede nga naa gyod positive sa usa ka lugar because you’ll be infected, whether you like it or not. Pag-uli nimo, igo sad imong pamilya. (You are in one community, one place. There should be no positive in one place because you’ll be infected. When you return home, your family will also be infected.) It can be a vicious cycle,” Secretary Dino said.
“Kun hadlok mo during ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) kay naa ang virus, the more we should be vigilant now that we are on GCQ (general community quarantine). The more we should be very, very careful,” he added.
Secretary Dino also noted that testing would have to be doubled or tripled as people will be going back to work. “Otherwise, we should be like Manila again. Ang Manila puno-puno na sad ilang hospitals, which we don’t like (to happen in Cebu). So, I hope, we have learned our lesson.”
He also emphasized that Cebu needs Project Balik Buhay so that Cebuanos can earn their living again and the economy will start its recovery.
“Project Balik Buhay is not my project. It is our project. It’s for everyone. Why do we need this Project Balik Buhay? Wala nang hanapbuhay. We need to bring back kinabuhi para kanatong tanan. We cannot do this only for the government. The private sector should also help us with this. We have to be together in this fight,” Secretary Dino appealed.
Last Monday, Secretary Roy Cimatu, overseer of IATF in the Visayas, has approved the relaunch of the PBB but asked the proponents to come up with an updated plan.
Liu explained that in coming up with the revised PBB, more business organizations have joined such as the Hotel, Resorts and Restaurants Association of Cebu, Cebu Real Estate and Builders Association, Cebu IT-BPM Organization, the group of major shopping malls and the Aboitiz group of companies.
The other business organizations that have participated in crafting the PBB are Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce; MEPZCEM Chamber Inc.; and the Philippine Retailers Association-Cebu Chapter.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan, Talisay City Mayor Samsam Gullas, Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña and Consolacion Mayor Joannes Alegado also expressed support for the PBB./PR
Photos by Cebu City PIO