PROJECT Balik Buhay (PBB), the multi-stakeholder plan which aims to balance economic sustainability and public health security in the three highly urbanized cities of Cebu: Lapu Lapu, Mandaue and Cebu City, will be reactivated; this time, focusing on the reopening of local businesses.
The PBB, which previously initiated massive rapid testing in the three cities during the early stages of the pandemic, now wants business enterprises to do regular strategic testing in the workplace aside from complying with the regular health standards.
“Doing regular seroprevalence testing will help the company find out if the workplace health standards they are implementing are working. On the other hand, without the proper health standards implemented in the workplace, regular testing will not be very helpful. The companies will really need to do both,” said Edmun Liu, PBB private sector chairman.
The implementation of workplace health standards can help prevent infection, while regular testing can help catch infection in the workplace, he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines seroprevalence testing as “the use of serology tests to identify people in a population or community that have antibodies against an infectious disease.”
Serology tests check the blood for antibodies that could indicate if a person had been infected with the virus that causes Covid-19.
Liu said the PBB team will again work with medical experts and the many different business groups with the support of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) Visayas, Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas and Department of Health.
Liu said the PBB team is still discussing all possible options on the kind of tests to be made available for businesses.
“We will all have to learn how to live with this virus, especially when there is still no vaccine yet being widely available,” Liu said.
“It is our prayer that we in the business community will somehow be able to help provide livelihood to our workers while also avoid overwhelming our hospitals by implementing the proper health standards in our different workplaces and ensuring that we are able to monitor, catch and trace any potential infections happening in our companies,” Liu added.
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu said to be effective, the PBB needs the full support of local government units.
For his part, Filipino-Cebuano Business Club (FilCeb) president Rey Calooy said micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will cooperate with the PBB; however, given that their revenues had been badly hit by the pandemic, government should shoulder the expenses.
“We are against it if we will be the ones to pay because most of our members already closed, while others maintain only a skeletal force because we have no revenue. If it is compulsory, it must be shouldered by the government,” Calooy said.
Philippine Retailers Association Cebu Chapter spokesperson Robert Go said they agree with the intentions of PBB.
“It is better than none,” he told SunStar Cebu.
The PBB calls for the implementation of a calibrated, scientific and evidence-based transition from modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status to general community quarantine (GCQ).
In a meeting with the Cebu business sector and local officials on Monday, July 27, 2020, IATF Cebu Overseer Secretary Roy Cimatu said he is encouraged by PBB’s move.
“I am encouraged by that (PBB) move. I support it. I (will) encourage that also to other government agencies,” he said.
Cimatu also said he noticed that Cebuanos now are more compliant with the imposed health protocols.
Cimatu noted a drop in Cebu City’s positivity rate from 30 percent (30 out of 100 Cebuanos tested for Covid-19) last June, to 11 percent in July.
Cebu City’s quarantine status may yet be downgraded from MECQ to GCQ this Aug. 1.
“We are ready to work, and we are ready to do our part,” said Liu on behalf of the business sector.
The meeting was hosted by Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, and attended by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan, Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr., Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña and officials of various government agencies. (JOB, WBS with PR)