BUSINESSES in Cebu have two weeks to realign their workplace operations before they reopen their doors to the public on June 1.

In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, business leaders in Cebu urged their member companies to participate in the rapid mass testing of the Project Balik Buhay (PBB) so they could operate in a Covid-19 free environment.

The extended enhanced community quarantine of the cities of Cebu and Mandaue will expire on May 31.

As tourism takes a temporary backseat, companies are also urged to re-evaluate their businesses and make changes to their business strategies in order to weather the lingering effects of this Covid-19 pandemic.

“Business is not back as usual. For you to survive, you have to bite the bullet. (You have to) reposition your business,” said Virgilio Espeleta, co-chairperson of the Regional Development Council 7 and immediate past president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Don’t fall in love with your business; fall in love with your market,” he added, noting how the coronavirus pandemic has quickly made consumers adjust to a new reality.

Moreover, Espeleta warned business owners that they will be facing a challenging business environment as “sales will not go back as usual” but payables will likely remain the same. He said the business community badly needs government support and it will not only be limited to financial aid.

He said resuscitating a bleeding economy would entail “multiple solutions,” including reformatting of government policies, effective enough to help businesses survive in the coming years.

“It is not going to be easy but it should be done,” he said.

However, while Cebu’s economy will be on the rebooting stage, it should brace itself for the rise of new businesses during this pandemic-induced business climate.

Appropriate precautions

Meanwhile, for companies that will be reopening their businesses on June 1, the business leaders reminded them to take appropriate precautions to protect the health and safety of their workers. They stressed that this requires diligence in adhering to all relevant health and safety policies and procedures underlined in the PBB, as well as the protocols issued by the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

To provide a safe and healthy working environment, the business leaders said it is crucial to conduct the Covid-19 testing for employers and employees as this will boost the confidence of both workers and customers as Cebu’s economy pushes ahead with the reopening.

In the cities of Cebu and Mandaue, however, testing of employees is not mandatory. The Lapu-Lapu City Government, meanwhile, “highly encourages rapid antibody testing for all its actual workforce for purposes of surveillance and monitoring.”

RDC 7 chairman Kenneth Cobonpue said the team learned so much from the public’s behavior when the government relaxed its restrictions and allowed some businesses to reopen in most areas in Luzon on Saturday, May 16. Many flocked to the malls and no longer observing the proper physical distancing, among others.

“We are a step back and it made us correct the actions,” he said.

In particular, Philippine Retailers Association-Cebu Chapter president Chester Lim hoped the mall situation in Luzon would not happen in Cebu.

“This is an opportunity to exercise good stewardship and responsible leadership. We’ve seen the news and it’s disheartening to see malls and shops are not observing those guidelines. I hope that it will not happen in Cebu,” he said.

Moreover, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu said the pandemic is an opportunity for businesses to usher in new practices that promote health.

“This opportunity comes in the form of a rebirth to a healthy planet. Now more than ever, we are afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redesign and reboot old ways of city living into a healthy metropolis,” he said. (With KOC)