MSME group dismayed over inclusion of Bacolod in competition shortlist

THE Bacolod Employers Union (BEU), a group composed of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the city, has expressed dismay over the announcement of the City Government of Bacolod that it was again chosen as national finalist in the 2020 Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) Awards by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

The BEU, on its Facebook post, appealed to the PCCI not to ask the LGU whether, or not, it is business-friendly.

"Please ask the local business owners themselves," the group said, adding that "please have a thorough interview regarding your criteria so that you will have accurate nominees in this award."

On Friday, the city government announced that for four years in a row now, the biggest organization of businessmen in the country has chosen the city as a national finalist in the said awards.

The PCCI, through LGUs Awards chair Jose Alejandro, has formally informed Mayor Evelio Leonardia last Tuesday that Bacolod City has advanced to the final judging of this year's search.

Leonardia, in a statement, said "we are inspired that we are being consistently recognized for our business-friendly environment by no less than the PCCI."

"We know that this pandemic has derailed our economy and even our lives. We are aware that there is a disruption of our business activities but the PCCI recognition should remind us and reassure us that once we get over this crisis, Bacolod has the capacity to reclaim its old glory," the mayor added.

The PCCI conducts the annual search to recognize the outstanding efforts and commendable practices of LGUs in the country to promote trade and investments, employment, transparency, accountability, and efficiency in delivering business services.

This year, the search will focus on significant initiatives introduced by the LGU to address the major challenges currently faced in order to successfully restore and increase the business operations within the locality.

The BEU, however, asked the award giving body to "keep the integrity of this award sacred," adding that they will write a formal letter to the PCCI expressing the same appeal.

The group is composed of 600 member-MSMEs with at least 300 registered businesses under different sectors. On an average, they employ about 3,000 workers.

Earlier, it has lamented that the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has been tremendously hurting MSMEs in the city, and that they have yet to receive help from the local government.

Its founding president John Anthony Ledesma, owner of Quino's, said MSMEs are the lifeblood of the local economy as for one, they provide vibrancy and employment.

Ledesma, however, said many of these local enterprises have already stopped operation since the quarantine measures were implemented in March this year.

"These MSMEs have been complying with all the protocols set in light of the Covid-19 threat. The situation now has become very hard for us," he said.

They also lamented that "these protocols have limited our operations, but no one thought of helping us even in terms of regulating the building rentals."

The group said they were not asking for free building rentals. Instead, at least ease the rentals or implement discounted rates for MSMEs.

"We are left to survive on our own," the BEU said, adding that until now, no support was extended by the local government.

In a related development, Lone District of Bacolod Congressman Greg Gasataya has earlier pushed for a longer period of building rental payment for MSMEs in Bacolod City during the implementation of modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

Gasataya, during the 2021 National Budget hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations recently, told Department of Trade (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez that small businesses need assistance for the industry to cope during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Gasataya said MSMEs in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental were asking for help as some building owners are reportedly not complying with DTI Memorandum Circular providing for a 30-day minimum grace period in rental payment in places under MECQ and general community quarantine (GCQ).

"The Memorandum Circular stated that the total rental fees after the grace period will be collected within six months and not in a one-time payment," he added.

Gasataya also urged the DTI to extend, if possible, the monthly amortization for one year to lessen the adverse effects of the pandemic to the MSMEs in areas under MECQ like Bacolod City.


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