(3rd of a series)
SUBIC Bay–Before Covid-19 came, this was a bustling city according to Dr. Oscar Soriano, a retired PNP officer. He briefed the reportorial team that business slowed down for Hanjin, a huge ship-building company, several automotive surplus firms that catered to customers from Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon, duty-free shops and micro-entrepreneurs.
“Tourism industries drew zero income when GCQ was imposed. It was only on July 1, when this city was given a modified GCQ that some businesses slowly re-opened,” he added.
Walking along the Subic Bay boulevard, here, showed a seemingly ghost town. Restaurants are opened but only a few have dine-in customers. Nearby duty-free shops were also a picture of emptiness. An owner commented that he opened only two days ago and his business suffered a slump. “I have no recourse but to cut-down costs and re-hired only a skeletal force,” he sighed.
Banks entertained a few clients and are only open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Just like in Butuan City, the president of the Bankers Club, Lou Jean Dadong, Branch Head of Business Bank, said that during ECQ days they have reduced their banking hours and opened only 3 times a week to mitigate the risks of possible Covid-19 contamination. He added that when MGCQ was implemented in their City last week, it was business as usual, but only a few clients came to their banks to either make deposits or payments.
“To help our clients in this time of crisis, we offered deferred payments of their loans. But their monthly amortizations from March to May, when GCQ was implemented, must be paid by June in one time only. However, there are no fixed regulations on these. It would be according to each bank’s policy” he added.
He said that his bank communicate with their clients on how to make payments in staggard basis to help them cope with their business operation’s liquidity. He added that most banks has allowed deferred payments as a matter of individual policy.
Dadong also commented that in his personal observation, the most affected sector by Covid 19 are the small businesses and entrepreneurs, to the point of closing their operations. However, he added, the big companies are not poised to declare bankruptcy because they still have back-up resources when ECQ was implemented.
There are 28 banks operating inButuan City and Agusan Norte. Dadong said that in this time of Covid crisis, on loan approvals they only select big businesses who have good records. “Existing clients who have good handling of their accounts may be granted loan approvals, especially those providing essential products and services,” he added.
On the overall situation in Butuan City, Dadong said small entrepreneurs are not afraid anymore of Covid 19. Tricycle drivers, food vendors come out into the streets to sell their wares, to eke out a living. “They are not afraid anymore of Covid threats to their health, rather they are afraid of hunger,” added Dadong.
However, he said the government has sufficiently provided for the food needs of these most affected sectors. He praised the governance policy of the City and Provincial officials in this time of crisis. “They have effectively addressed the problems of food and containment of Covid 19, and they have provided sufficient isolation and quarantine facilities.
TOURISM OPERATORS DECRY LACK OF GOV’T MITIGATION EFFORTS
Iba, Zambales – This province is considered the Tourism Capital of the Philippines according to Godyson Dolfo, professor of Northern Zambales College and past president of the Rotary Club, and also an officer of the Zambales Chamber of Commerce. “There are more than 200 tourism establishment operators in this province. and tourism is the biggest earner for our economy. When Covid-19 restrictions were imposed we were the recipient of the biggest setback of our economy,” he added.
Mrs. Vilma Mirador, owner of Palmera Tourist Resort in this town, asked the Reportorial Team to help their association of more than 200 resorts, in seeking government intervention for them to return to normal or “new normal” operation. She said they were forced to reduce their workers to a skeletal force. Opening, just the other day, Ms. Mirador said several tourist schedules in her place and in other tourist destinations in the province were cancelled.
“In this MCGQ times, hotels and restaurants were allowed to reopen with only 50% accommodation of their establishments. But the resorts are not included. We feel this is an injustice to us. We can also impose health protocols in our establishments as what the hotels and restaurants do. What is the difference between us and the hotels and restaurants? We also offer dine-in and take out food orders. We also impose social distancing in our rooms for visitors just like in hotels? But why are we not allowed to re-open as what they allow in hotels and restaurants? If the guests want to swim in our swimming pools and beach fronts, we will strictly impose social distancing and other protocols,” stated Ms. Mirador.
She added that the tourist resort industry in the province has incurred huge losses in terms of income forcing some to close and declare bankruftcy.
“What we pity are our workers who lost their jobs because we cannot afford to pay their salaries anymore with the shutdowns. And neither have we received government support such as the CAMP program of the Dept of Labor & Employment,” she said. –With reports from Gerry Lee Gorit, The PhilStar correspondent, and Richard dela Cruz, Eagle Broadcasting Corp.