BUSINESS groups in Bacolod City are asking the local government unit (LGU) to lift the curfew hours and liquor ban, particularly for those 23 years old and above.

The local business community, in a position paper, said the move will help spark opportunities for evening businesses in the city amid the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

About 30 percent of the sector’s revenues come from night businesses, Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) chief executive officer Frank Carbon said.

Currently under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the city continues to implement the 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew and partial liquor ban that allows the purchase of alcoholic beverages only from 12 noon to 6 p.m.

Businessmen stressed that the community quarantine measures have been necessary to save lives amid the increasing infections of the coronavirus. But as a consequence, we are now facing economic distress because of the loss of jobs and other means of livelihood.

“Many businesses, including small and micro enterprises, were forced to close,” they said, adding that “as a result, many workers have either lost their jobs or earn less than what they used to.”

The position paper is a collective stand of various business groups including MBCCI, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Negros Occidental, Resort Association of Negros Island and Bacolod Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Carbon said they are submitting the position paper to the city government this week.

In the said position paper, business groups stressed that economic restrictions have been prolonged enough to worsen the effects on people, families, communities.

They said many have fallen deeper into poverty, and in more ways than one, including education, indebtedness, and nutrition.

These have added an even greater burden to the already encumbered social welfare and security system, they added.

The local business community asserted that cash assistance and provision of some food items have helped to tide the poorest of the poor through the quarantine but that was only a short-term solution.

For them, stimulating economic activity is the next crucial step to help people, families and businesses stay afloat and get on the road to recovery.

Aside from lifting the curfew and liquor ban, the sector is pushing for some other measures to stimulate economic activity.

Businessmen said the local government should increase the purchasing power of the populace through the cash-for-work program, labor-intensive infrastructure projects, and financial assistance to micro-businesses.

At the same time, in order to protect the purchasing power of low-income and most vulnerable families, the LGU needs to organize rolling stores, implement a price freeze ordinance and set a suggested retail price for necessities.

They said for businesses to stay afloat, business taxes and other fees should be reduced in 2021. There should be discounts on real estate tax paid in advance, as well as a tax amnesty on unpaid real estate tax and business tax.

“All these immediate local interventions will help preserve jobs and prop up the diminishing purchasing power of the populace to keep the local economy afloat,” they added.

Carbon, meanwhile, said 50 percent of the food and entertainment revenues come from family activities.

He said the move of President Rodrigo Duterte reversing the decision of the National Inter-Agency Task Force allowing children aged 10 to 14 years old to go out in areas under MGCQ will deprive businesses of additional revenues, which they badly need to survive another year of restrictive living.

“We'll find other ways to compensate for this loss,” he said, adding that they respect the decision of the president.

“If we can't respect our elected president, then don't expect other countries to respect us,” the business leader also said.