“I FEAR the implications it brings to business and the economy.”

This was Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia’s statement with regards to the declaration of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) placing some areas in Cebu Province under Alert Level 2 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said in his privilege speech during the 16th Session of the City Council Wednesday, April 26, 2023, that he is “reluctant” on accepting the declaration, stressing it is an unnecessary scare to the people.

“I share the reluctance of people to accept the latest development from IATF, which declares the province of Cebu with whom we share 1 Cebu Island under Alert Level 2,” Garcia said.

“In fact, vast majority of the people are vaccinated. There is really no cause for alarm anymore. Our hospitals and our doctors know how to treat it already. It’s not as deadly as before. So ngano mo ingon-ingon pa man ta og Alert Level 2, Alert Level 1. Makuyawan hinuon og samot ang atong mga tao (So why declare alert levels 1 and 2? It will just cause panic among people),” he added.

Garcia also said that should the alert status restrict transport and establishment capacities, it will have a direct effect on the businesses and establishments.

“Mo ubos na sad ang ilang sales. Inig ubos sa ilang sales, unsa may effect ana? Ila na sad i-lay off ang ilang employees. You know, it’s an endless cycle na daghan kaayo ma affected. The economy will be affected, the businesses will be affected, ultimately your job, my job, everybody's job will be affected,” he said.

Cebu City Councilor Joy Pesquera also said that she worries for its effect on the tourism sector.

“Even during the time in 2020, we already started to really move forward to revive our economy, to promote our tourism, and now this so-called declaration by IATF on Alert Level 2, it’s detrimental to our tourism industry and to our economy,” Pesquera said.

The IATF approved a resolution on April 14 to place Cebu Province -- except the cities of Naga and Talisay, and municipalities of Alcoy, Borbon, Oslob, Pilar, Poro, Santander and Tudela -- under Alert Level 2 until April 30, 2023.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia previously described the new development as “anti-poor and anti-business,” saying in an interview: “We have moved on. As I stated, Cebu Province has moved on.”

Vice Mayor Garcia said that since the reason presented by the Department of Health (DOH) was the low vaccination rates, the move should instead be on more proactive actions toward encouraging people to have their vaccine booster doses.

Pesquera added that the city has already recorded 98 percent vaccination, and it is only the booster dose vaccination rates that Cebu City is lagging.

She added that the City Government has provided schemes to encourage more people to have their booster doses, like raffle promos and incentives for those who could refer more than 200 people to have their booster doses.

The body agreed on a motion to require the presence of DOH for an executive session on May 3, 2023, along with the city officials. (With Ralph Martinez, BIPSU intern)