Guv calls for ‘pro-active’ ways to deal with Covid-19

CEBUANOS are urged to take a more pro-active role to help cushion the effects of Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the local tourism industry.

A suggestion from Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia was to offer discounts to employees of local government units (LGUs) in the province as a way to entice those from the countryside to visit urban Cebu.

“It’s like a special distinction for being a Cebuano, helping out in these times of crises. It would seem like a certain kind of incentive,” she said.

The governor was joined by Department of Tourism 7 Director Shahlimar Tamano, League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Cebu chapter president and Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco and fifth district Provincial Board Member Andrei Duterte in a meeting with business groups, mall owners, and the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (Hrrac) on the Covid-19 scare on Wednesday afternoon, March 4, 2020.

Last month, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) 7 reported that Central Visayas stands to lose an estimated US$40,395,430 in monthly tourism revenues due to the Covid-19 outbreak that has prompted travel restrictions on countries affected by the illness.

Of the figure, Neda 7 Director Efren Carreon said some $17,361,780 in foregone revenues will come from the cancellation of accommodations, $2,516,200 from local transport services, $15,487,050 from restaurant and food and beverage services and $5,030,400 from retail trade or shopping.

Garcia said now is the best time for Cebuanos to take matters into their own hands.

She said one way is for hotels and resorts to introduce package rates in an “attractive and affordable” manner.

She said LGU employees would opt to hold team building seminars and workshops, symposiums and conventions within their locality because accommodations in the urban area are costly.

“Perhaps it is time that instead of bringing tourists from the urban area to our towns, why not reverse it? There are a lot of people who want to go to urban Cebu but they hurry home because hotels in the city are too expensive for them,” Garcia said.

“Wouldn’t it be better to earn even if it’s just a fraction of what you would normally charge rather than zero?” she added.

Tamano said that in the southern town of Oslob alone, the daily number of tourist arrivals has decreased from 2,000 to 1,500 and, recently, to 800 visitors.

Tamano was in Oslob on March 3 with the governor and officials of other key agencies for a stakeholders meeting on coastal structures within the easement zone.

For her part, Frasco, the governor’s daughter, said that the 44 towns would be open to partnerships with Hrrac and mall operators.

She shared that Liloan had collaborated with a mall last December in ferrying and offering promos to her constituents during the holiday season.

The Hrrac has also expressed its support, but stressed the need to conduct further study on what types of discounts they could offer to LGU employees.

A technical working group is set to discuss the matter in the coming weeks.

But while the governor’s suggestion was a welcome development, a mall operator in downtown Cebu City expressed reservations.

He lamented that while establishments are offering discounts and promos to customers, this could not “counter” their increasing utility bills and permit fees among others.

The governor, though, was quick to point out that she is set to call for another meeting with the transportation and utility sectors as well as financial institutions for an even more holistic approach towards offsetting the effects of Covid-19.

“We’re trying to compartmentalize. But as I’ve said, the worst hit now are our tourism stakeholders. Ultimately this will be about bank loans, interest rates, utilities. But that should be for another day, because right now we’re starting from scratch,” Garcia said.

Appeal to the mayor

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Council has requested Mayor Edgardo Labella to reconsider his decision to make Cebu City Resource Management and Development Center (Cremdec) in Barangay Taptap, a quarantine facility for persons under monitoring (PUM).

With five abstentions, and with City Councilors Prisca Niña Mabatid and Dave Tumulak not around, the Council approved the motion of Councilor Lea Japson.

Councilors Raymond Alvin Garcia, Phillip Zafra, Eduardo Rama Jr., Jerry Guardo and Donaldo “Dondon” Hontiveros abstained from voting.

On Wednesday, March 4, Japson, in her privilege speech, said the Cremdec building is not an ideal quarantine site.

“Cremdec facility in Barangay Taptap is located right beside the barangay road where people coming in and out of the barangay proper will pass by,” said Japson.

Japson said that although there was a forum conducted in February to hear the side of the residents, and City Health Officer Daisy Villa assured them that the novel coronavirus can only be transmitted through close contact with an infected person, the latest findings report that the virus is also spread through the air.

Japson told members of the Council that some barangay Taptap residents had experienced discrimination.

“Some residents said they are already being discredited by other people upon learning that they are residents of barangay Taptap. This really affects them--the students and workers especially those whose means of livelihood entails going to urban areas to sell their farm produce,” said Japson. (RTF / JJL )