Zoom meetings are the rage these days among members of the business community, who are left with no option but to interact virtually during this lockdown season.
Many organizations have resorted to webinars in order to reach their target audience undergoing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). I have attended quite a number of these online seminars, including the recent “eForum on MSME COVID-19 Funding: Government and Private Sector Roles” organized by the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport), Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Disaster Relief Foundation, and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Fintech Alliance Executive Director Griselda Santos said the new normal entails social distancing but still being able to deliver goods and services in a cost-effective and efficient manner. She identified alternative finance, remittance, and insurtech as the most relevant fintech sectors amid the global pandemic.
Philexport President Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr. called for action regarding the serious credit shortage affecting the country. From his talk, I heard for the first time the proposal to use the World Trade Center, Philippine International Convention Center, and other large venues as quarantine facilities — which the government has agreed to implement.
Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII) President John Carlo Tria disclosed that DCCCII is in talks with PPE manufacturers to help address the anxiety of employees who would be deployed to work after the ECQ is lifted. He warned that MSMEs are not confident in starting up operations right away and would want to wait until a reasonable level of safety is achieved.
According to Small Business Corp. President Luna Cacanando, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has mandated all banks to suspend the loan payments of MSMEs by one month. She emphasized that innovation is key for all MSMEs to respond to the current situation. DTI has a P1.5-billion fund in place for affected businesses, and priority will be given to essential industries like food services, agriculture, and manufacturing.
Yet there are a few essential businesses that have hardly been hit by this once-in-a-century economic crisis. One of them is the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry, which has addressed health-related concerns while serving its customers in the midst of uncertainty. After all, LPG is the preferred cooking fuel in urban Filipino households.
LPG wholesaler South Pacific, Inc. (SPI) and its sister company, retailer Republic Gas Corp. (Regasco), have assured consumers of the unimpeded supply and delivery of their products as well as continued benefits for their workers.
In a Zoom interview, SPI President Iñigo Golingay, Jr. revealed that they have adequate stocks for the potential increase in demand because of their large storage facilities in Batangas and Cebu. A 24-hour incident response team has been set up to address critical situations that may arise during the ECQ period.
Both Regasco and SPI are complying with directives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and relevant government agencies when it comes to the safety of their workforce. They strictly enforce the WHO standards pertaining to physical distancing within company premises, and conduct constant temperature checks of personnel before allowing entry into their terminals and offices. All truck cabins of their clients are also being disinfected thoroughly.
Meanwhile, employees affected by modified work schedules and those who need to be physically present while on duty continue to receive their salaries despite disrupted work programs. These 100% Filipino-owned firms have also released half of the 13th month pay to aid their workers who are experiencing the financial crunch.
FIRST VIRTUAL GMM
The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) will hold its first-ever virtual general membership meeting (GMM) on April 22 through a webinar via Zoom.
Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Jose “Joey” Concepcion III is the invited guest speaker for this GMM and he will discuss the private sector’s latest recommendations to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). So far, the IATF has adopted many suggestions from the business organizations that have been constantly meeting with Mr. Concepcion about the so-called next normal post-ECQ.
J. Albert Gamboa is CFO of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and chairman of FINEX Publications.