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By: Mylen Manto, Vanessa Almeda | Published Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Cebu business and tourism community representatives shares the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to the Provincial Board. They said majority of the workers face possible displacement. (Donald Moga)

About 75 percent of the workers in the tourism industry while around 65 percent workers in the business sector face possible displacements because of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Representatives of Cebu’s business community shared this to the Provincial Board during its regular session on Monday, June 8 following an invitation from 6th District Board Member Glenn Anthony Soco to know the negative effects of the pandemic in an effort to revive the economy.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Steven Alain Yu attributed the possible displacement of workers to the unavailability of the Covid-19 vaccine and observance of physical distancing at the workplace.

He added that remaining workers find the lack of transportation challenging as they report for duty. To address this, he asked the government to add more buses allowed to ply the streets to ferry the workers.

Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu, Inc. (HRRAC) President Carlo Anton Suarez also asked for whatever help the local government can extend to the business community as it will probably take 1-2 years for the hotels, resorts, and restaurants to recover. 

Together with Yu and Suarez for the presentation were Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Felix Taguiam and Virgilio “Nonoy” Espeleta of Regional Development Council (RDC) 7.

Cebu as health and wellness destination 

Despite the current gloomy situation of the province’s tourism industry, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia believes that tourism is not yet dead in Cebu.

“We are looking at tourism as a way to provide livelihoods to our people. So definitely we cannot say tourism is dead. We will see what we can do to revive it because people need the jobs and the economic activity that tourism generates,” Garcia said.

The Province, she said, is looking into repackaging Cebu as a health and wellness destination.

Last week, Garcia, together with mayors of towns that are home to Cebu’s tourist spots, met with the Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 to discuss on strategies to revive Cebu’s prime tourism destinations.

In the same meeting, the mayors were tasked to come up with their own set of protocols for their specific tourism activity. For example, canyoneering, a sport tourism activity which combines climbing, hiking, cliff diving and swimming, will set a different health protocol as compared to whale-watching and so forth.

“We will be meeting again this week and we tasked them depending on the kind of activity in their area kung unsa ilang ma propose nga protocols taking into consideration health and sanitation and our push towards boosting the immune system,” Garcia said.

“What I’m saying is, a much deeper, more meaningful, and I believe, more effective way of combatting this Covid-19 is to boost your immune system, and we will incorporate that in the protocols of the different tourism activities and tourism accommodations sa atong mga lungsod ug sa probinsya,” Garcia emphasized.

She assured Cebuanos that she is taking her commitment to serve Cebuanos seriously.

“We are considering tourism not as a leisure activity but as an economic activity. Why? Because tourism industry translates to so many jobs to our people,” she said.

As to returning Cebuanos who may face retrenchment, Garcia said it will depend on the resort owners but set protocols must be followed if they go back to their workplaces.

“Certainly, the challenge that I face is to create opportunities for our Cebuano constituents in the province be it in reviving tourism or in our agricultural production direction in the new enhanced countryside development vision that we laid out,” she further added.

With the data that was analyzed and presented to the public on the number of Covid-19 positive cases vis-à-vis other existing diseases and illnesses in the province, Garcia is confident that Cebu can “move on even with Covid.”

“What’s keeping me up (now) is how I can provide opportunities for you mga pinalangga kong mga Sugboanon,” Garcia said. (Mylen Manto, Vanessa Almeda)