BUSINESS leaders in Cebu have reiterated their appeal to speed up the Covid-19 vaccination rollout and urged businesses to invest in other industries like manufacturing and tourism following the drastic decline of Central Visayas’ economic performance in 2020.

Region 7 ended the pandemic year of 2020 with its worst economic performance of negative 9.9 percent growth.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu noted that because Cebu is an economy propped up by service and service-related industries, it cannot survive on a new normal based on restricting social and human interactions.

“That is why we need to get vaccinated soon. Let us continue to hope and pray that we will sustain this modified general community quarantine while we do our vaccinations. This is our only hope for exiting this pandemic-induced economic maelstrom,” he said.

Yu explained that the decline can be attributed to Cebu’s huge reliance on tourism receipts. He noted that Cebu isn’t only the No. 1 tourist destination in the Philippines but also a major hub for air traffic, connecting tourists to neighboring islands like Bohol, Siargao, Boracay and other prominent tourist destinations in the Visayas and Mindanao.

As international tourism revenues disappeared overnight, many downstream tourism sectors were heavily affected.

“Cebu is also the trading and shipping center of the Visayas and Mindanao. During the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), these activities ground to a halt, and made a huge dent on annual numbers. That is why Cebu cannot afford an ECQ or modified ECQ again because it will raze its economy to the ground,” he said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority said the drop in the performance of industries by five percent and services by 5.2 percent contributed heavily to the overall 9.9 percent decline.

The region’s agriculture sector, however, grew by 0.3 percent.

Filipino Cebuano Business Club chairman Rey Calooy said there is a need to boost the sustainability of food production in the region.

Calooy said farm tourism can also be undertaken as a move to improve the economic situation in the region.

“Cebu is a tourism hub and we focused on that industry over the other industries. So when it was badly hit, it gave us a lesson that we have to balance the economy and not only rely on tourism,” he said.

Calooy urged his fellow entrepreneurs to also pour investments into manufacturing and agriculture.

“We have to boost the production side because you can move your products where they are needed. There is also farm tourism, which is a very good outdoor activity,” he said. (JOB)