DTI: Small, medium firms recovering from lockdown

LEGAZPI CITY --- Thousands of enterprises in Bicol region crippled by the lockdown due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic are slowly recovering, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Rodrigo Aguilar, DTI Bicol regional director, said close to 60,000 or 75 percent of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in the region are back on their feet after quarantine restrictions were eased allowing them to operate though on a limited capacity.

When the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was downgraded to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), these enterprises were allowed to operate on condition that they strictly comply with the health quarantine standards set by the government.

These health standards include limiting mass gatherings by maintaining 75 percent occupancy rate, wearing of face masks, social distancing, and other health protocols.

Aguilar, citing an agency study, said around P5.4 billion revenue losses were reported from various enterprises due to the temporary closure when the region was placed under ECQ by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The study indicated that topping the list of provinces with revenue losses due to the temporarily closure of businesses were: Camarines Sur,P2.6 billion; Albay, P1.1 billion; Catanduanes, P625 million; Sorsogon,P464 million; Masbate, P389 million; and Camarines Norte, P148 million losses.

Aguilar, in an interview on Tuesday , July 28, said the ECQ for the period March 16 to April 30 this year has closed 61,522 business establishments or 61 percent of the 75,000 registered enterprises in Bicol.

The two months lockdown sent 139,321 workers temporarily out of work.

He said only 14,000 vital essential business establishments involved in the distribution of power, water, food production and distribution, banking, health services, were permitted to operate during the ECQ period.

To caution the economic impact of Covid-19 to MSME, the DTI through the Small Business Corp. Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing has earmarked P1 billion financing assistance.

Aguilar said DTI through the SB ERF would grant loan assistance to enterprises for additional capital in the amount ranging from P20,000 to P500,000.

He said some P200 million worth of loan assistance are being processed for close to 2,000 MSME loan applicants.

Martin Reynoso, real estate and leasing businessman, said Covid-19 was a “hard hit” to businesses engaged in retailing, garments, textile, food and restaurants, personal care, hotels, malls, resorts, tourist destinations, private schools and universities.

Reynoso in an interview said “business prospects turned bleak due to the pandemic where businesses change to recover is very low, even to reach a break even point, it’s a survival of the fittest.”

Reynoso, a member of the Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said malls sales were down by 50 percent while food and restaurants sales were down by 80 to 90 percent due to the lockdown.

Asked what intervention should the government do to help revive the industry, he said the national government should give tax holiday incentives by way of discounts, and amnesty.

Rosemarie Quinto Rey, ACCI president, said the government and private sector should act as one in addressing the economic woes brought by the pandemic.

She said among the possible assistance to be given to business was for the government to provide additional capital in the form of loan grants and the fast tracking of payment of accounts payable due to private enterprises.