BACOLOD City Mayor Evelio Leonardia has ordered the city’s Economic Stimulus Planning Team (ESPT) to expand its ongoing consultations with various sectors and institutions to get their inputs on the Economic Recovery Plan of the city amid the crisis brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ESPT was tasked last April to research and connect with government agencies that can fund local stimulus programs, and to initially negotiate with them for assistance to small businesses as the priority, then followed by other aid programs for medium and bigger businesses.
The ESPT is chaired by Councilor Dindo Ramos, with the following as members: City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) head Mary Jean Ramos, LEIPO (Local Economic and Investment Promotions Officer)- designate Jonah Javier, Executive Assistants George Zulueta and Dr. Emiliano Sama Jr., and Special Consultant on Trade and Investment Atty. John Orola.
The ESPT first met on April 28 for a consultative meeting, and on July 9 where they presented their initial outputs to the mayor.
Last week, they met with the DSSD, banking institutions, private higher education institutions, and the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Orola said, “we have to come up with projects and programs that we can offer to the marginalized sector, the business sector, the educational sector, and those who have been adversely affected by this Covid pandemic.”
Bacolod City has to have short-term and long-term programs to properly address the economic downturn since it is uncertain as to how long this pandemic will last, he added.
“The city has to be ready with this, and the mayor has instructed us to also discuss with more stakeholders,” Orola added.
On July 14, the ESPT met with private higher education institutions at the Riverside College to discuss and assess the impact and actions taken by the different schools to survive the pandemic.
Orola also briefed the academe on the Economic Recovery Plan of the city, to orient and provide the public with available programs of national agencies and banking institutions in providing financial assistance to survive the pandemic.
“The group is very optimistic that private schools are ready to open for classes in August. The delivery of instructions will be flexible learning to ensure the adaptability of the students,” he said.
Attending the meeting were officials and representatives of Colegio San Agustin–Bacolod, La Consolacion College–Bacolod, Riverside College, STI West Negros University, University of Negros Occidental- Recoletos, University of St. La Salle, and Visayan Maritime Academy.
Before the meeting with the academe, the ESPT held a meeting with various banking institutions at the Bacolod City Government Center on July 13.
“We wanted to get information on the assistance the banks can extend to the city and the various sectors affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Orola said.
Attending the meeting were officials and representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry, Development Bank of the Philippines, Dungganon Bank, La Castellana 1 Personnel Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and Producers Bank.
Orola said they will submit to Leonardia a summary of the recommendations gathered from the series of consultations.
The initial output of the ESPT includes the identification of target beneficiaries and the proposed programs and projects for them.
The priority of the Economic Recovery Plan is to provide assistance to micro and small businesses which are most vulnerable due to the pandemic; followed by help to medium-scale enterprises as a second priority which may include a waiver of penalties on delayed local tax payments; and assistance to big businesses and landowners which may include amnesty to delinquent land or real property owners and developers.
Basic to the recovery program is also government spending to boost the economy and the undertaking of other activities that can create opportunities for work and livelihood, Orola added.
It is to be recognized, however, that the management of active Covid cases is an integral part of the recovery effort because should the quarantine status of any LGU be upgraded to the more restrictive categories, then a slowdown will happen again and all this planning will have to be put on hold, Orola said.
Thus, people need to cooperate with the prescribed health protocols of wearing face masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing to stem the tide of Covid transmission. It is only under more relaxed quarantine conditions like that under the present modified general community quarantine that any economic recovery effort would have the chance to succeed, Orola further stressed.
The Sangguniang Panlungsod has already finished the first reading of the proposed ordinance, authored by Councilor Ramos, granting tax relief to delinquent real property taxpayers in the city through the condonation of penalties, interest and surcharges imposed, and providing mechanisms for its proper implementation. (PR)