Saturday, September 22, 2018

‘Nightmarish’ traffic takes its toll on SMEs

DAILY traffic jams in Cebu City’s south district are hurting business owners because these delay deliveries, keep away customers, and take a toll on the productivity of employees, some of whom arrive late for work.

Some are trying all sorts of tactics, just to cope: fielding mascots to entertain or attract young customers to a fastfood chain and offering free delivery and in-store rewards to keep a supermarket’s foot traffic up.

“Traffic in the Mambaling area is nightmarish. It’s a classic case of poor planning and incompetence,” said Gordon Alan Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club.

“To date, the lack of response and competence from those responsible for traffic management has been pathetic, at best,” Gordon said. He cited a Japan International Cooperation Agency study, which estimated that traffic congestion is costing Cebu some P1 billion a day in lost revenues.

Slow mobility increases transport costs and lowers the quality of life, said Gordon.

“How can we grow tourism in the face of this problem?” he said.

Rey Calooy, president of the Filipino-Cebuano Business Club Inc., said some small and micro entrepreneurs have to deal with high delivery costs as one result of traffic congestion.

“Before, we could deliver our goods to eight customers a day but now that’s down to four customers a day. The MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) are not happy with the present traffic situation,” he said. Calooy’s packaging business is located in Talisay City.

But while it’s agony on the road for now, Calooy remains optimistic the traffic problem will be resolved over time, especially once the Department of Works and Highways finishes its P683-million underpass on N. Bacalso Ave.

“This is for everybody...We are optimistic that after the completion, traffic in the south will improve,” he said.

Coping mechanisms

Construction of the underpass started last August 2017 and entered its fourth phase last week.

In the meantime, business owners are doing what they can to cope.

Gilbert Tangpos, a vendor of lechon manok, said that since the construction has started, he’s been having fewer customers.

Regular buyers who use cars no longer buy from him as often, and most of his buyers now are those who walk or use motorbikes.

Marifel Berdin has heard from regular customers in her chainsaw shop that the lack of parking and the hassle of heavy traffic are keeping them away.

Cres Gabrillo, who manages an auto parts shop, reported a 30 percent drop in sales since the traffic began to get worse.

“Dako kaayo ug epekto sa among negosyo ang traffic. Dako-dako gyud ug giubos among sales (The traffic has caused our sales to drop considerably),” Gabrillo said.

Jane Natulla, branch manager of a Jollibee outlet near N. Bacalso Ave., said that to attract and keep customers, especially children, the store’s mascot roams around to entertain guests.

Natulla, however, stayed positive.

“Nakaapekto gyud siya, mga half sa among sales. But then, di man sad gyud mi mahutdan og customers (It’s had effect, about half of our sales. But then, we never run out of customers),” she said.

Josephine Laganas, Shopwise store manager, said that while the traffic has affected the business, as well as their customers, they’re offering better service and more promotional activities.

“We are running our promo for Shopwise card members twice a month, every first and third week of the month, instead of once. We are also catering free delivery; the customer can just call us and we will deliver. We also conduct mall activities like marketing events,” Laganas said.

She added that even if the underpass construction has affected business, she will still support government infrastructure projects like the Mambaling underpass.

Workers and business owners in the area hope that once the project gets done, they can regain what profits they’ve lost. (Jerra Mae Librea / USJ-R Intern)