GenSan biz sector says GCQ extension bad for local economy

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 2 October) – The move by the local government unit to extend the general community quarantine (GCQ) in the city despite the recent decision of the national government to place it under modified GCQ will gravely affect the local economy, businesses and the working public, a business leader said.

“The economy is suffering, people are suffering. Enough of these tight measures and give back to the people the chance to work and earn, maluoy pud mo (have pity),” Elmer Catulpos, president of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. said, adding how some local authorities could appear “adamant” to the plight of people.

President Duterte on Monday evening announced that from Oct. 1-31, Lanao del Sur and Marawi City would be placed under modified enhanced community quarantine, the National Capital Region and the cities of Batangas, Tacloban, Iloilo, Bacolod and Iligan under GCQ, and the rest of the country under MGCQ.

As ordered by local authorities, General Santos City has remained under a general community quarantine (GCQ) even if the area has been placed under modified GCQ by the national government. The business sector said the move would harm the local economy. MindaNews photo taken Oct. 2, 2020 by ROMMEL REBOLLIDO

“There was no mention of any extension of the GCQ in Gensan on the recent pronouncement of the President, meaning the city must already be on MGCQ,” Catulpos said.

GCQ extension appeal

A day after the President’s announcement, the local government announced in its social media account that they made an appeal to national authorities to extend the city’s GCQ status.

City Mayor Ronnel Rivera also issued an executive order dated Sept. 27 extending the GCQ in the city until October 15.

An advisory by the local government said the extension was unanimously decided by the Local Inter-Agency Task Force, which includes the barangay chairs, medical experts and security forces in the city.

Rivera cited the continuing rise of COVID-19 infections the past weeks, forcing authorities to implement granular lockdowns in certain streets and portions of villages to help contain an apparent local transmission that started last month.

As of Sept. 29, Department of Health figures said the city had 371 infections with 159 active cases, 201 recoveries and 10 deaths. There were nine new infections that day.

“Frantic moves”

In an official statement, the local business chamber said they have been appreciative and supportive of what the local government has done the past months in cushioning the impact of the pandemic.

“Some authorities (however) frantically impose certain health and economic protocols that tend to pose challenges in businesses and lend chance to many people losing their jobs and sources of livelihood,” the statement said.

Citing that even the banking sector also raised concern, Catulpos said economic activities in the city have slowed down due to tight measures like border lockdowns that hamper the movement of goods and people resulting in the closure of businesses and loss of jobs and livelihood.

Catulpos, who owns the nationwide media network Brigada Group, also scored authorities for portraying the Gensan Fish Port Complex in status reports as a source of COVID-19 infections, “in effect destroying what could be our major economic weapon amid this pandemic.”

He said such portrayal destroyed the image of a landmark, a major source of livelihood not only for local residents but also for people from other places, and a contributor to the local and national economy which could mean huge losses amounting to millions of dollars.

“Thousands visit the fish port every day and some of these people are the ones infected, not the fishport itself. Why not trace where those people came from before they headed to the fish port?” he said.

The fishing industry here reportedly lost an estimated P300 million in combined revenues during a four-day partial lockdown in September at the fish port complex due to COVID-19 infections.

“Let’s be compassionate”

“COVID-19 is not the enemy as some would portray the current situation but hunger and poverty that currently loom so dangerously with the present state of our faltering economy,” Catulpos said.

“While there is still time, let us be compassionate by lending an ear to the already hoarse and pleading voice of the working public. The voice of the people is the voice of business,” he urged local authorities.

The stand of the Gensan Chamber drew support from many netizens, many of whom urged authorities to loosen the anti-COVID measures and strictly enforce necessary health protocols instead.

Riza Mae Esclamado said she is against lockdowns, but “we need discipline and (to) strictly follow health and safety protocols. To sustain and to live, we need jobs, opportunities and other sources of income.”

Yhadz Tulio said, “Open the border please, we are in a hard situation because we cannot work, we (can) follow the protocols instead.

Businessman George Bedia-Anas, commenting online on the Chamber statement, said he hopes the group will proactively work with the city authorities to craft standard protocols for the “new normal”.

He said the quarantine restrictions cannot be lifted without an efficient contact-tracing platform, occupational preemptive health protocols, and proactive information dissemination to educate the public and regain their confidence without being complacent about the threat of COVID-19. (Rommel Rebollido/MindaNews)