AS THE Cebu City Government is trying to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the city, it is also starting to formulate programs that will address the city’s battered economy—and among its plans include aiding small businesses and training displaced workers to become entrepreneurs.
Mayor Edgardo Labella discussed his plans to recharge the local economy during his second State of the City Address (Soca), which he delivered online on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.
The City, he said, will focus on generating jobs, promoting entrepreneurship, supporting education, improving city residents’ health and upgrading the sanitation system.
Labella said the City will train displaced workers to improve their entrepreneurial skills and it will also help small businesses strangled by prolonged lockdowns.
“We will be working on a stimulus package para sa mga gagmay’ng negosyante (for small-time businesspersons). They are the backbone of our economy,” he said.
To adjust the local education system in the time of coronavirus, Labella said the City will gather local and international experts to develop programs to supplement the Department of Education’s distance learning.
The City will also focus on programs that will improve barangay programs and realize the digitalization of City Hall services.
Labella noted the importance of the City’s collaborations with the business community, as well as the neighboring local government units, especially during the health crisis brought about by the local Covid-19 epidemic.
The mayor said he always consults the business sector to ensure that business operations will continue.
Biz leaders’ response
To help Cebu City’s economy get back on track, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Felix Taguiam said they are working on the Cebu Investment Development Concierge Center (CIDCC) project that was launched last January.
“We originally planned for the foreign direct investment to Cebu but due to this situation, we are revisiting the program and changing it to spruce up local investments and job creation,” Taguiam said.
CIDCC is a one-stop trade and investment center for businesses and investors interested to locate and invest in Cebu City and Cebu Province.
CCCI former president Virgilio Espeleta said the City should focus on reviving the economy.
“Let us extend help where we can contribute: our time, resources and expertise. Let’s be counted in reviving, reinventing and rebuilding our city,” he said.
Rey Calooy, president of the Filipino-Cebuano Business Club, said the City should also extend assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
Calooy said they are looking forward to the stimulus package the City is planning to give to MSMEs to jumpstart their operations.
Labella said collaborating with the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu as well as with the private sector, Cebu City was able to conduct mass testing using rapid diagnostic tests even though it was not the gold standard in detecting Covid-19.
Labella enumerated in his Soca what the City Government has done in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
As early as January, Labella said he ordered the activation of the Emergency Response Operations to closely monitor any development in relation to the disease.
In March, the City purchased three polymerase chain reaction machines and turned these over to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), a government hospital in Cebu City.
The sub-national laboratory of VSMMC was the first laboratory in Cebu City allowed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to conduct tests.
The City also purchased 20,000 rapid test kits to support the mass testing campaign.
The first 20 cases of Covid-19 in Cebu City were reported last March 28.
Also in March, the City activated the cluster clinics to attend to residents with symptoms of Covid-19.
The cluster clinics also collect swab samples. Labella said about 4,000 individuals already took the tests.
After there was a surge of patients infected with Covid-19 in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz last April, Labella ordered the activation of barangay isolation centers (BICs).
As of July 20, Labella said 50 schools were already converted into and used as BICs with a total bed capacity of 3,052.
Of the 3,052 beds, only 15 percent were utilized, meaning only 440 patients are currently staying at the BICs. There are still 2,612 beds available.
The City was also able to build its own negative-pressure Cebu City Quarantine Center and the New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home (Noah) Complex. These two buildings serve as isolation facilities for asymptomatic Covid-19 patients.
The City released P1 billion to purchase provisions for residents in the city affected by the community quarantine, to donate personal protective equipment to VSMMC; to provide funds to the 80 barangays amounting from P1 million to P3 million, depending on the barangay’s population.
When Labella assumed office in 2019, he laid out his 10-point agenda that he promised to fulfill within his term, which will end at noon of June 30, 2022.
For the education sector, he said four 16-room buildings are set to be constructed in Barangays Mambaling, Lorega-San Miguel, San Jose and Sapangdaku.