DUMAGUETE CITY – Cross-sector representatives have expressed hopes of better days to come amid the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as President Rodrigo Duterte pronounced his plans and programs for the last two years of his term.
President Duterte delivered his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) before Congress at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City on Monday, which mostly centered on the fight against the Covid-19 and highlighting packages and guidelines on the country’s economic recovery.
Dumaguete-based businessman Edward Du, Central Visayas regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and former president of the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI), noted that the Philippines still earned a BBB+ credit rating despite the economic slowdown of about four months at the height of the pandemic.
“There is hope for the country if we are able to maintain this while waiting for a vaccine for the Covid-19,” he said, as businesses begin to reopen with the easing up of quarantine restrictions.
Du pointed out two major pronouncements of the President that he said will spur the country’s economy, given the current conditions that it is facing right now.
First is for the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Enterprises (CREATE) bill into law, “which we at NOCCI are pushing” in support of the President, Du said.
He said they applaud Duterte for asking Congress to fast-track the passage of the CREATE Act as it will help reduce the corporate income tax rate especially in this time of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, he said that business groups are also hopeful about the passage of a stimulus package that will help establishments affected by the economic slowdown to recover.
“It’s not enough to give you incentives. Mag unsa man ang tax incentives kung imong negosyo sarado (What good would it be for the tax incentives if your establishment has shut down)”? he added.
“You need money to reopen so that you create jobs,” Du said.
Adrian Sedillo, executive director of the Negros Oriental Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), expressed optimism about better coordination among national and local governments as President Duterte spoke about policies and other plans on addressing health issues, particularly Covid-19, and disaster response.
Sedillo, who is also the provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO) head, is happy with Duterte’s pronouncements pushing for the passage of a National Disease Prevention and Management Authority and a Department of Disaster Resilience.
He added that he would want a merging of disaster preparedness and response and the management of infectious diseases under one governing body. “There seems to be a disconnection between the two because when the Covid-19 surfaced, the DRRMO structure was not immediately recognized,” he said.
Sedillo thanked President Duterte for recognizing the efforts of government agencies, front-liners and other sectors in the fight to stem the transmission of the coronavirus in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, 26-year-old Cil Flores, a copy editor who works for an online company, is looking forward to having a more stable and robust Internet connection after President Duterte’s warning to the country’s two telecommunications companies, Globe and Smart, to improve their services before the end of the year.
Flores, who has worked from home since March due to quarantine restrictions in line with the battle against Covid-19, said that intermittent Wi-Fi connections hamper her daily output.
“Sometimes we experience intermittent connection, other times we lose connection at home. It is really crucial because without the Internet, dili mi ka-function sa work ug naay times madugay pagbalik ang signal so mapugsan gyud mi ug leave (we cannot function at work and sometimes it takes too long to get back the signal so we are forced to file a leave of absence), and we have to transfer our rest day schedule” she said.
Flores said she is expecting Duterte to push the telcos to improve their services as she also hopes there will be significant changes in the next months so that people whose jobs are mainly dependent on the Internet will not be affected.
On the other hand, Jimslyn Faburada Pelagio, 36, a mother of four boys, was elated to hear the President say that he is prioritizing the safety of the students and would not allow face-to-face classes unless safety is assured while the Covid-19 threat is still around.
Faburada, who hails from a mountain village in Jimalalud, has sought work as a house help here after her husband lost his job as a family driver in Cebu City due to the pandemic.
She said that three of her sons are supposed to enroll this year but she thinks it is better not to, even for a year or until it is already safe for them to go back to school.
“Kuyawan ko sa Covid ug kami nga taga-bukid wala mi Internet didto mao nga maglisod mi anang gi ingun nga online o blended learning (I am scared of the Covid-19 and since we live in the mountains, we don’t have Internet access there and therefore it would be difficult for my sons to enroll in online or blended learning),” she said.
She added that it would be nice if a free Internet connection would be set up in the barangays, and students can converge there while observing health protocols like practicing safe physical distancing, wearing face masks, and constantly washing their hands or using alcohol.
She is hoping that President Duterte would find other options for the poor students who cannot afford online or blended learning in this time of the pandemic. (PNA)