Private sector eyed for PBB
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Ehda M. Dagooc, Caecent No-ot Magsumbol (The Freeman) - July 29, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Inter-Agency Task Force Cebu overseer Secretary Roy Cimatu has given the green light for the re-launch of Project Balik Buhay of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV), this time with the private sector in focus as Cebu City looks to transition back to general community quarantine from modified enhanced community quarantine in August.

"I am encouraged by that (PBB) move. I support it. I (will) encourage that also to other government agencies. I'm very happy naman to be of help, really,” Cimatu said during a private meeting at the Montebello Hotel in Cebu City.

The PBB’s new direction will facilitate a calibrated, scientific, and evidence-based transition to GCQ to prepare for the re-opening of more businesses.

Cimatu met with the business sector in Cebu instead of attending the 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila last Monday.

"I opted to be here in this meeting with the business sector because this is really very necessary. The importance really is the indication of success here in Cebu City," Cimatu said.

The private sector was represented, among others, by Regional Development Council (RDC) 7 Chairperson Kenneth Cobonpue, who is also the co-chair for PBB, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Felix Taguiam, and Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) President Steven Yu.

The meeting was hosted by OPAV Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino.

Also present were Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan, Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas, and Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña.

Some regional directors and officials of several government agencies were also in attendance.

Duterte sent Cimatu to Cebu City purposely to oversee the implementation of quarantine protocols here when the city was reverted to ECQ during the second half of June owing to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Positive development

In a statement released by OPAV, Cimatu said he has observed that Cebuanos are now more compliant with health protocols. He also noted a significant drop of the positivity rate in Cebu City – from 30 percent (out of 100 Cebuanos tested) in June to 11 percent in July.

Cimatu described the decline in positivity rate as a good indicator of the government’s response in the fight against the disease.

Retired Maj. Gen. Melquiades Feliciano, deputy Chief Implementor for IATF in Cebu, also expressed his support to PBB for the private sectors.

Feliciano stated that the end-product of this program is to have an agreement between the private sector and the local chief executives in implementing the PBB.

"There is no question that PBB is a good process and will work for all business establishments. The business sector has mentioned going through the process of having this plan being cascaded and disseminated to all the business establishments," Feliciano said in the same OPAV statement.

Plan of action

"We are ready to work, and we are ready to do our part," said Edmun Liu, chairman of the PBB for the private sector.

Liu said they will tap the help of health experts to ensure that health standards will be adopted by businesses. An updated plan of action will be released this week.

He said the initial plan was to establish guidelines to reopen the economy gradually and safely.

"PBB wanted to find a way to balance the lives and livelihood of the people, while not making it difficult for businesses to reopen. What we would have wanted sana during that time (June 1, Cebu City was under GCQ) was that for PBB to work, kailangan everybody would be willing to do our part, sana before reopening and going back to work, ma-implement yung health standards in the workplace, at saka ma-test yung employees, kahit man lang hindi 100 percent, and kahit even through rapid anti-body test lang, not the rt-PCR test because back then, we didn't have enough machines," he said.

He said it is still the main responsibility of business owners to provide a safe environment for their workers and clients.

"We have to remember when we go back to work, kailangan safe tayong lahat. It is the responsibility of each businessman to take care of their workers," Liu said.

Cimatu said the efforts in Cebu are first in the country and strategies here on the integrated response to COVID-19 may be put integrated into a manual that can be shared with other local government units.

MCCI President Steven Yu himself said "PBB has some inputs that can complement and reinforce the RIATF guidelines.”  JMO (FREEMAN)

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