The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has tapped the multi-sector program of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) to align private sector efforts in the drive against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cebu City.

Environment Secretary and Cebu COVID-19 intervention overseer Roy Cimatu and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino recently met with business leaders and mayors of Cebu to discuss the parameters in tapping the “Project Balik Buhay” (PBB) to gradually reopen the community.

In a statement, the OPAV said PBB will focus on the private sector’s role in the re-opening of businesses and the implementation of a calibrated, scientific, and evidence-based transition from the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ) status.

“I will encourage that also to other government agencies.”

“I am encouraged by that (PBB) move, I support it. I (will) encourage that also to other government agencies. I’m very happy naman (of course) to be of help really. Totoo yan ha na (That is really true that) I opted to be here in this meeting with the business sector because this is really very necessary. The importance really is the indication of success here in Cebu City,” Cimatu said.

Melquiades Feliciano, IATF deputy chief implementer in Cebu, said the end-product of PBB would be to have an agreement between the private sector and the local chief executives in implementing the programs.

“There is no question that PBB is a good process and will work for all business establishments. The business sector has mentioned going through the process of having this plan being cascaded and disseminated to all the business establishments,” Feliciano said.

PBB chairman for private sector Edmun Liu, for his part, said they will tap health experts in ensuring a thorough plan which includes establishing workplace health standards and regular testing protocols for business establishments to adopt.

Liu said the initial plan of PBB was to establish guidelines in reopening the economy gradually and safely.

“PBB wanted to find a way to balance the lives and livelihood of the people, while not making it difficult for businesses to reopen. What we would have wanted sana (after all) during that time (June 1, Cebu City was under GCQ) was that for PBB to work, kailangan (it’s needed that) everybody would be willing to do our part, before reopening and going back to work, health standards (are imposed) in the workplace,” Liu stressed.

Even if not 100 percent of the workforce will be tested, he said there must be testing using the rapid antibody test and not the RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test.

“Cebuanos are now more compliant in observing the health protocols.”

Meanwhile, Cimatu said Cebuanos are now more compliant in observing the health protocols.

The environment chief also noted a decrease in the positivity rate in Cebu City, saying that those who tested positive COVID-19 in June has “considerably dropped” from 30 percent to 11 percent in July.

The environment head described the decline as a good indicator of the government’s response in the fight against COVID-19.

Present during the meeting in Cebu City were Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, Mayor Edgardo Labella, Mayor Jonas Cortes of Mandaue City, Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan of Lapu-Lapu City, Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas of Talisay City and Mayor Elanito Peña of Minglanilla.

The private sector was also represented by Regional Development Council (RDC) 7 Chairman Kenneth Cobonpue, who is also the co-chair for PBB, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Felix Taguiam and Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Steven Yu, among others. 

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