Opening and closing economies

The local economy is slowly opening up now that land and sea transportation are in operation with very minimal restrictions, except for the mandatory use of masks and face shields.

Bacolod business leader Frank Carbon, said in an interview over Aksyon Radyo, that he is positive we are on our way to recovery. By merely opening up sea travel, Frank said some 400 jobs were revived as porters, tellers, and employees of food stalls are back to work.

With the ports opening up, hotels are slowly opening their doors too and for as long as the local government units will not re-impose restrictive travel protocols, Frank sees the local economy back on its feet by the first quarter of next year.

“It is encouraging because the business community are reinvesting and many tourism spots in the province are opening up as well,” Frank said.

For over a month now, the business community has been urging the local government to present to them their plans to jumpstart the economy. However, it seems that it’s the private sector that has been doing most of the work in creating jobs.

Frank said they have been urging the Bacolod city government to also provide work, especially for those who lost their livelihood due to the pandemic. “Our recovery will be faster if the LGU is helping out,” he said, adding that the city has the capacity to not only create jobs but provide a stimulus plan as businesses now have limited capital.

Although the national government has plans to provide financial help particularly to small and medium enterprises, the recent disaster from Typhoon Rolly may divert some of the funds, to rehabilitate areas that were greatly affected.

LGUs, according to Frank, have a better borrowing capacity than businesses and it is imperative that the city government will reinvest to complement what the private sector is doing.

Hmmm. Why not start off with the rehabilitation of the Rizal Park which was a controversial issue early this year. The city government got criticized for announcing the facelift of the park as just another wasteful aesthetics program while we are in the midst of the pandemic.

But since the city government said they cannot give back the money allocated for such, they might as well use that now as a means to provide food for work. And what better time to do it than now while there is very little traffic because schools are closed.

The Halandumon Tower is out of the question because it has been rehabilitated and I’m sure it was at the expense of the contractors since that project was already completed and was only damaged when a Korean rammed his vehicle into it. Whatever happened to that guy? I am sure it was quite traumatic for him but it was also providential since we found out that the structure was not worth it.

But while Bacolod is slowly opening up, in nearby Silay City, the local government is closing down establishments that have become tourism attractions recently.

Silay Mayor Mark Golez said about 36 establishments – resorts and coffee shops – that have sprouted in Lantawan and Patag have been ordered closed and deemed illegal.

Golez said that the national government called his attention as these businesses are not paying taxes to operate and the fact that it falls under the protected forest reserve, no structures were supposed to be built there.

Asked if these businesses were on titled land, Golez said these are mostly under stewardship as in the case of many areas in Don Salvador Benedicto that was also criticized by environmentalists.

Golez said that they’ve given notices to these businesses but “the ball is now in the court of the Protected Area Management Board (PAM-B),” and if PAM-B gives its approval, “then that’s the time we will process their permits.”

Golez pointed out that since this is in the reservation part, “it may compromise future generations.”

He said there are issues concerning water rights, disposal of waste materials, and these businesses do not have discharge permits so it’s a wonder where they are bringing their trash and where do their drainage lead.

I’ve visited several coffee shops and even brought foreign visitors for lunch in one of the big resorts there. I must admit I was impressed at how the owners maintained the property with a big pool and a well-manicured estate.

Of course, the mayor was right in closing down these establishments because although they could fetch quite a sum from tourism revenues, if these are not registered businesses, then the city is not earning anything at all from them.

On the other hand, it is unbelievable that the construction of these structures did not reach the radar of the LGU or even the barangays as I am sure it took months or even years for some to be developed to what it is now.

We can pass the ball on to PAM-B but local officials must also share in the blame for allowing it to grow this big and even bigger if these were not brought to the attention of the national government by concerned citizens and environmentalists.

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