Cebu to rise again

Cebu to rise again

Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - January 1, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  As the worldwide economy is on its knees, Cebu’s business leaders are calling for everyone’s cooperation, and perhaps prayers, to accelerate recovery.

The forecast is bleak, in fact the most depressing in the recent years. Yet Cebu is seen to pick up the pieces again in 2021 and start to rebuild the broken economic pillars, especially tourism and retail.

“The year 2021 will be a recovery year from the pandemic year 2020. Our projected growth rate is six percent, still below the level of pre-Covid year 2019,” said Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Steven Yu.

Yu said the Philippines will lag behind its ASEAN neighbors in this journey to recovery, being a 70 percent consumption-driven economy. In particular, Cebu, an economic machine fueled by tourism and remittances, will have a difficult ride to recovery, as tourism is seen to crawl at least in the next two years.

As a result, retail sector is also seen to slow down.

The year 2021 is also poised to become a “make or break” year for brick-and-mortar retail segment, as people are now getting comfortable doing shopping online.

“The accelerating digital lifestyle will also affect brick-and-mortar stores, reducing physical retail footprint,” Yu said.

Buy Local

As the year of the Metal Ox is believed to bring forth stability, business leaders call on every Cebuano to be part of the recovery.

The “Buy local” campaign is being pushed by the business sector, calling consumers to patronize local products to hasten recovery efforts.

Regional Development Council- Economic Development Council chairperson Virgilio Brigido Espeleta said there is a need for local chief executives to urge consumers in their respective localities to patronize local products, especially in this challenging economic situation.

LGUs are encouraged to submit resolutions expressing support to Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) “Buy Local, Go Lokal” campaign, empowering the micro and small businesses in the region as they are slowly reopening.

Espeleta, former president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), said that aside from LGUs, members of the RDC are also directed to support this campaign, which is considered as vital to economic recovery caused by the pandemic.

Supporting the campaign would mean more employment opportunities even in the middle of pandemic, Espeleta said.

He said if every Cebuano will heed this call of cooperation in supporting local industries, Cebu can fix the broken pieces faster.

No Turning Back

Long-term plans may not be advisable in these tough times, but what businesses have learned, if not are trying to learn, during this reign of COVID-19 is to embrace changes. Thus, being resilient and agile will make business alive, if not thrive, under the challenging circumstances.

“The year 2021 will be a totally challenging year.  The new norm ushers completely an entirely business landscape. In order to revive the economy back to where it was, we have to boost consumer confidence and spending. And most of all, adapt to changes,” noted CCCI president Felix Taguiam.

CCCI, Taguiam said, will intensify its call beginning 2021 for businesses to pivot to digital platform. After all, this is the way it is now—going digital.

“We in CCCI have been advising members to reboot and restart their businesses by going digital. We have to embrace change. There is no turning back as we have to completely change our mindset to survive,” Taguiam said.

Former MCCI president Philip Tan also thinks that 2021 will be a year of recovery and rebuilding.

According to Tan, the race is on—the survival of the fittest. Those who keep on turning back and are slow to respond to the changes, he said, may no longer reach the recovery destination.

“Those who have the resources should use their money to re-invent, re-position their businesses. This is a new world, (there are) new ways of doing things,” noted Tan.

But while recovery is assured, when it will actually happen remains “unknown,” according to Tan.

He said that as part of the new mindset, economic prime movers are also learning to surrender the future to its Maker. Some, if not most of them, are recognizing the existence of a Higher Power which directs the future of all.

Vaccine

Meanwhile, hope springs from the arrival of vaccine, which is expected to save a lot of industries that are suffering now due to the lingering threat of the virus.

While 2021 would be a year of recovery and rebuilding, it would be much harder to see a sure-ball recovery without the vaccine.

“The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel so the economy can be opened fully and tourism will be reinvigorated,” Yu said.

Tan expressed apprehensions over the effective and fast distribution of the vaccine.

If ever there is a vaccine, he said, it would take time to get distributed to over a hundred million Filipinos. It would be another bureaucratic drama on the stage of politics and law-making body, he added.

Tan hopes that a good system will be put  in place when the vaccine arrives.

Meantime, the private sector, government and consumers are expected to get their acts together to build a new world and new economy in the economy new normal — with or without the vaccine.

Better than 2020

All things said, the year 2021 is, nevertheless, seen to be a better year compared to 2020. That, of course, does not take into account — God forbid — more natural or made-made disruptions next year.

Roughly, 2021 will not be a good year, but still better than 2020 if there would be no surge in COVID-19 cases or lockdown. If so, Cebu economy will experience the same as that of the rest of country, said former Philippine Retailers Association (PRA-Cebu) president Robert Go.

Go, a former CCCI president and owner of the Prince Hypermart chain of supermarket and department stores, anticipates a better year, regardless of the challenges.

In the retail sector, he sees a bloody fight against digital shopping and belt tightening of consumers.

“People are going digital. Even baby boomers go on line to buy,” said Go.

As it stands, everything remains uncertain, economically speaking. And although there is always hope, business leaders in Cebu are also careful not to give Cebuanos false hopes. — JMD (FREEMAN)

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