#COVID-19 Regional Updates (03/18/20)

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IBP national office workers to get half of 13th month pay

THE INTEGRATED Bar of the Philippines (IBP) will release early half of the 13th month pay and salaries of its national office employees located in the National Capital Region while Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine due to the novel coronavirus disease. In a statement, IBP National President Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa said these will be given to IBP National employees and legal aid clerks for the purchase of food supply and basic necessities. “Please prudently use the advanced benefits and salaries for basic necessities to weather lockdowns,” Mr. Cayosa reminded employees. “Observe the quarantine protocols prescribed by authorities and health experts.” For IBP chapters outside the capital, Mr. Cayosa said, “We have also directed the Chapters with enough resources to do the same for allowances from Chapter funds that are due to the Legal Aid Clerks.” Mr. Cayosa also recommended to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to suspend hearings and processes in all quasi-judicial and administrative tribunals in the country and to function only with “minimal staff on a rotation or on call basis.” Work from home arrangement was also recommended. The Supreme Court on Monday issued an administrative circular directing the drastic reduction of operations in all courts until April 15, maintaining only skeletal staff to act on “urgent matters.” All hearings are suspended except on matters involving bail and habeas corpus, promulgation of judgement on acquittals, reliefs or those arrested during the period. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Iloilo businesses encouraged to stay open, but customers shy away

THE ILOILO City government offices get disinfected as part of measures to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus. — BW/ERSSANTIAGUDO

ILOILO CITY — The Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods Restaurant chain, popular among locals and tourists, is temporarily closing three branches in Iloilo as customers dwindle following the community quarantine declared by both the provincial and city governments to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

One of the biggest taxi operators in the city, Light of Glory Taxi, has also announced that it might suspend services soon.

lloilo Business Club (IBC) Executive Director Maria Victoria Lea E. Lara said while the private sector is mandated under the local quarantine guidelines to remain open though with shortened operating hours, many simply could not sustain the daily costs.

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“While we want to follow our mandate to open, but who will we serve? No one is leaving their houses. We don’t really know,” Ms. Lara told BusinessWorld.

She said the impact is felt by both small enterprises and big businesses.

“Our local economy is service oriented and now we are reeling from the huge drop of sales and bookings… Trucks coming in from Manila will also surely face delays following the strict border restrictions. The logistics support and supplies needed by the restaurants and other establishments will be significantly affected,” she said.

Happy C. Abenir spokesperson of the Iloilo Hotels, Resorts, and Restaurants Association (IHRRA), said the tourism sector is “taking a big hit.”

“There are already no flights coming in to Iloilo and there is less movement of people. Accommodation sector, local hotels, and travel tours are all crying for help because there are no tourists and customers,” Ms. Abenir told BusinessWorld in a separate interview.

Restrictions are also in place at the borders of the provinces and main cities of the entire Western Visayas Region, which covers Antique, Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo, and Guimaras.

As of March 17, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the region.

“We are balancing the business side and how to maintain the work force at a level that the business can survive. We are aware of the plight of the workers and the business sector is doing all it can do in terms of saving the employees,” Ms. Abenir said.

Both the IBC and IHRRA officials, however, said job cuts and business closures are inevitable if the current COVID-19 national situation does not improve and the community quarantine is prolonged.

“We anticipate the job losses and it is a scenario if this will continue,” Ms. Lara said.

For now, Ms. Abenir said, “We are looking at what we can do, particularly in areas which needs assistance and how we will be able to help. We are closely coordinating with the local governments and DoH (Department of Health).” — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo

Davao businesses rush to migrate to online platforms amid COVID-19

DAVAO CITY — The Davao City business chamber has sought the help of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector to map out a scheme that establishments can adopt to maintain operations amid the COVID-19 threat.

“Our major concern is to keep business flowing while observing maximum precautions in line with government’s. We are closely coordinating with the city government of Davao on the matter,” Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) President John Carlo B. Tria told BusinessWorld via phone Tuesday.

The Davao City government declared a community quarantine Sunday, setting restrictions on the movement of people at the borders.

DCCCII, meanwhile, said establishments have committed to continue to function as normal as possible while preparing to slowly migrate to e-commerce platforms for trade transactions and other online options for daily operations.

Shopping malls remain open but with shortened operating hours.

More local consumers, meanwhile, have been patronizing mobile application services for food and grocery delivery.

Small Basket, a third party delivery service that caters to orders from the supermarkets and various retail shops of homegrown New City Commercial Corp. (NCCC), appealed to its clients as early as last Saturday to understand their “dire situation” given the sudden “high volume of orders.”

As of this week, the next open slot for a Small Basket delivery is March 23.

Mr. Tria said they are also working with the city government for an economic plan that will address the disruptions and expected losses from COVID-19.

“The common sentiment of the business sector now is how to continue doing business amid the COVID-19 scare,” he said.

There are no confirmed cases in the city as of March 17.

In an earlier phone interview, Arturo M. Milan, regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “We need to stand and fight this virus by not shying away from our regular routine but doing what we are supposed to do for as long as we implement the necessary protocols… or else our economy will collapse.” — Maya M. Padillo and Carmelito Q. Francisco

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