By Rose de la Cruz | Published: October 17, 2020
Though many businesses have been allowed to reopen under the general community quarantine (GCQ) since June, their operations were far from normal. Their fear-stricken consumers are not yet ready —financially and psychologically— to do business with them or buy from their stores.
Evidenced by the rising number of stalls reopening in most malls, there is hardly any buyer or restaurant patron willing (and able) to visit or patronize them. Consider the long period — almost seven months — they were quarantined!
Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs during the lockdown.
The only stores that are viable these days are groceries, basic food stuff sources and drugstores.
To Augment Income
Surprisingly, people are now going back to planting their own food source like veggies, and herbs, and even ornamentals they can sell for good profit.
Posts on Facebook and Twitter are mostly on pricey plants that people are now propagating; fruits harvested after years of caring for them; newly-planted vegetables providing source of nutrition during the lockdowns, and even bakery and viands they have learned to patiently cook and now willing to sell.
Equally astonishing are the vehicles used to deliver online orders. There are even those who hitch in government shuttles. Most are operating on their own — not as a business to thrive — if only to augment lost income.
Micro Biz Most Affected
A recent survey done by the World Bank, Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority from July 7 to 14 showed that 74,031 firms affected by COVID-19 were mostly micro enterprises ( at 59.3 percent); small industries at 19.2 percent, and medium industries 12. 8 percent.
These figures were disclosed at the recently-concluded 46th Business Congress & Exhibition.
George Barcelon, former president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a virtual breakfast forum hosted by Melo Acuña, “the bottomline is how to rebuild the trust of consumers.”
During the lockdown, Barcelon said, employees of food businesses and other so-called frontliners were not being allowed by their families to go out of their homes.
The level of confidence could be restored only by mass testing but ultimately what we need are vaccines, which are six months away yet, Barcelon added.
Respect, Not Fear
For now, the proper mindset is “we respect COVID-19, but we should not fear it”.
Barcelon opined, “The economy is paralyzed because we are so afraid of COVID. Part of ayuda should go in therapeutic medicine or vitamins and immunity boosters.”
It is so hard to test everybody but if you give them immune boosters, then their (frontliners’) confidence will be restored, Barcelon said.
The country is not out of the woods yet.
Barcelon noted that companies doing well now are those in essential sectors —food, agriculture, pharmaceutical. The biggest beneficiary is the ICT (information and communication technology) where there is extensive use of the visual platform.
Aside from consumer products, the industries badly hit by COVID-19 are those in the travel sector (airlines, hotels and hospices, luxury liners and entertainment) which are not just retrenching but are “letting go of people in bulk.”
Atty. Sonny Masino of Nagkaisa and Federation of Free Workers said labor tried to push hard at the Tripartite Industrial Peace Council meeting last Tuesday the granting of 13th month pay to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by the government, especially the so-called modern-day heroes or MSMEs that maintained their workforce even if they themselves were bleeding to death.
The labor sector is also pushing for the extension of floating employment.
He lamented that just last week alone, thousands of workers in garments and textiles companies in Laguna and Cebu have been laid off because of hard times imposed by COVID-19.
Dr. Rene Ofreneo, former dean of the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations, decried the abandonment by government of the farmers and agriculture, which should have been the country’s saving grace and area of growth during a major crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Everyone in the agriculture sector is complaining because of liberalization policies without a safety net being provided to the farmers.
Ofreneo said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez was right about pushing the concept of domestic industrialization or developing and harnessing local businesses over imports.
In the health sector, he said, a lot of garments factories in Laguna and Cavite could have supplied the health workers and hospitals with the PPEs (protective personal equipment) they needed.
But what did the government do? It just kept importing these items at very high price, all because someone was raking it in.
Even ventilators could have been done locally but government chose to import them.