CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 25 May) — Nearly 22,000 business establishments registered in the city have closed shops in March and April when the local government implemented the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19.)
Ruben Vegafria, former president of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Oro Chamber), said that even if the local government has already relaxed some of the strict quarantine measures, many of the firms are still closed now, without giving a figure.
Vegafria said this has caused “huge losses to the local economy and left thousands of workers jobless.”
“We can not estimate the losses but it’s huge. It’s the entire economy of the city of Cagayan de Oro,” Vegafria told MindaNews.
In the briefing papers presented by Oro Chamber to the Northern Mindanao Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for COVID-19 early this month, medium and small business firms engage in tourism and leisure; transportation, aviation and maritime; automotive; construction and real estate; and, manufacturing (non-essential) were the most badly hit in the city.
The Oro Chamber said the quarantine lead to a sharp decrease in business confidence and labor productivity.
“What must come first? Saving lives or saving the economy? Sadly, it is doubly hard to define priorities today,” Vegafria said.
The IATF responded that the local government of El Salvador, for example, had passed local ordinances to extend real property and business taxes without charges to help taxpayers and business operators.
The task force also said that government agencies also extended the deadlines of government fees and waived penalties to help the local business sector.
Vegafria said the Oro Chamber presented several recommendations for local traders to get back on their feet.
He said the traders want the local government to reopen more the local economy by allowing the resumption of travel, leisure and entertainment activities.
He said local traders should also be given holidays in loan payments until the local economy will stabilize.
Vegafria said the Social Amelioration Program, which benefited 96,000 workers in Region 10, should be extended if the present modified GCQ will be extended beyond June.
“Those who choose saving human lives are actually the people who are economically privileged. These are people who will certainly survive but what about those who mercilessly live wanting on the other side of the road? “ Vegafria said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)