The Post-Lockdown Perspective Series seeks to elicit the views of some government and business leaders in Visayas and Mindanao on the gargantuan effort to stand up amidst the unprecedented Covid-19 quarantine of over two months and a half.
The series attempts a sketch of different viewpoints in the hopes that the experience sparks a lively discussion among public and private stakeholders and policymakers that leads to a clearer post-lockdown roadmap to recovery.
Post lockdown in Iloilo and Davao
Mayor Jerry Treñas
The incumbent mayor of Iloilo City distinguised himself as one of the forward looking mayors in the Philippine archipelago during the quarantine period. This is how Panay News (April 14, 2020) described the mayor:
Under Treñas’ leadership, Iloilo city showed promise as one of the most responsive local government units when it comes to addressing the peril of novel coronavirus. The mayor earned praises online for his resolute governance and the city even labeled as its “own country inside the Philippines.”
What challenges are the government facing post-lockdown?
We have to consider everything as we enter into the “new normal”. Iloilo City is the regional center where convergence of crowd is definitely a challenge. Influx of people is expected as they work, study, seek medical services, transact, shop or do business in the metropolis. Dealing with more people requires a lot of resources to put in place preventive measures to protect the public from the pandemic.
Admittedly, the city is adversely affected economically since the Enhanced Community Quarantine was implemented in March. We have to revive our economy, open up businesses, and meet all our financial obligations post-lockdown.
Our tourism industry has suffered major blows with suspension of operations. Hotels and accommodation facilities feel adverse impacts so as the food service. Beverage sales are being burdened by liquor ban. Cancellation of events curtails our huge target revenues as potential MICE capital.
For the sector to bounce back, we should strongly promote domestic tourism activities and support local players to at least slowly recover their losses.
I believe, though, that participation is the key in leadership. As a leader, the more people you gather to get the job done, results will be participatory and inclusive for the benefit of all. I always see to it that we meet every sector to address their concerns as well as consider their consensus in arriving at informed decisions.
What will the situation be post-lockdown? What should the people expect?
We should always bear in mind that COVID-19 is here, and the threat is real. We have to let that sink in. As the local chief executive, I couldn’t afford to be lax on implementation of policies to safeguard general welfare.
We have to get used to following protocols on wearing of face mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing or sanitizing.
Ilonggos are resilient people, able to bounce forward. That is why our battlecry is “Batò Iloilo” (Fight, Iloilo!), because I am certain we can get through this.
What protocols will be implemented to ensure the prevention of community transmission?
We move into one action to control the transmission, by ensuring communities are fully educated, engaged, and empowered to live under existing conditions. New normal means being vigilant about health protocols through frequent hand washing, proper hygiene, mandatory wearing of face mask, strict practice of physical distancing, and sanitation, from homes to public places and conveyances.
We will continue our mass testing so we can detect, test, isolate, and treat every case and trace every contact; and identify and minimize risk hotspots in vulnerable areas.
This will definitely be given a boost by the city’s plan to put up its own COVID lab and dormitory, which we hope to open in July this year.
John Carlo Tria
The current president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCCI) specializes in business development, compliance, and project management in the agricultural, energy, and natural resources industries. Aside from conducting socio-economic research, education, and awareness campaigns for projects in these industries, he also writes a column for Davao City newspapers and online news pages. John Carlo Tria is the first DCCCII president with experience in the media profession.
What challenges will the business sector face post-lockdown?
There will be two challenges:
- Recovering from losses
- Recovering while adapting to new normals to create resiliency in case similar disruptions take place. This is the opportunity for transforming the business, making it more adaptive.
The second major challenge may be more daunting but will also allow a rethink of the business model and create new opportunities.
Even with government support and stimulus and possible low cost financing, it will require an open and clear mind and a firm resolve to strategize and execute new or modified business plans to ensure success under new normals, which businesses will need to define.
Some companies will be able to do it well. Many need assistance, especially micro and small businesses in their online migration, for instance.
The larger backdrop and necessity of all of this that we need to get as much businesses as possible up and running so that we can get the economy moving. The regional economy that recovers well post COVID will be attractive to investments and trade since consumer and business confidence is high.
What will be the situation post-lockdown? What should the people expect?
I am seeing a more systematic and deliberate approach in the guidelines from the national government’s IATF which include measures against possible second waves of infection while allowing the economy to move.
The actual rules will be in local executive orders that are based on these guidelines. Thankfully, many local governments are able to implement according to the guidelines. Many are also complementing national government efforts by putting local incentives in place to help local businesses recover. May these continue.
I will expect certain regions to recover and grow ahead of others. I think that those that grow have three main characteristics:
- Low level infections and high recovery rates among the infected, thereby leaving low current case rates that do not overwhelm health systems.
- Health facilities that can absorb infections and do localized clustered quarantine, testing, isolation and treament.
- Food security that keeps food costs low and available for local residents, effective logistics and export markets for locally produced goods and services. These include exports of agri goods and manufactured products, BPOs. This will therefore be the basis of renewed confidence and resilience.
This will allow a phased approach that will retain confidence and keep new infections to a minimum. As this low growth in new infections takes place coupled with an increase in recoveries, well run isolation centers and testing is in place, consumer and business confidence will slowly rise.
Nonetheless, regulations and precautions will need to remain in place as a strong treatment and vaccine are still being developed.
From an economic standpoint, the “post lockdown” scenario presents an opportunity to strengthen the Visayas and Mindanao economy. This, by building common capacities to create jobs to achieve two outcomes: manufacture goods traditionally sourced from Metro Manila to meet regional needs and provide low cost manufacturing sites for Filipino industries , and compete with asean counterparts like Vietnam and Indonesia for investments.
With its lower labor and living costs and power and labor are readily available unlike the past, its industrial capability can be competitive and able to achieve the abovementioned objectives.
- More businesses will go online driving a demand for Information technology products, connectivity solutions, website upgrades.
- More online meetings, online payments, online webinars and learning.
- More will work from home. These arrangements that have the potential to drive up productivity if management procedures and protocols for remote working are in place, such as output based work systems. This can drive down costs since office overheads can be reduced.
What protocols will be implemented to ensure the prevention of community transmission?
If and when possible, maintain work from home for many employees, and workplace protocols will be needed such as maintaining physical distance and sanitation. This can prevent workplace infection, which will also prevent community transmission for employees who will go home.
I think clustered quarantine of specific identified cases can be implemented in accordance with iatf guidelines.
This, along with ensuring local reliable testing for suspected cases, contact tracing and isolation facilities to quarantine those who tested positive i believe community transmission can be controlled at the lowest level possible so that it does not spread.
Likewise, augmenting local health facilities such as increased ICU and ventilator facilities in identified hospitals can be done to make sure that in case critical cases are encountered among those infected that they can be treated.
Increasing these capacities give confidence to the local population, especially infected residents to come forward and submit themselves to testing and treatment. The more they come forward, the less infected residents may be roaming, and cause new infections.
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