BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Vito Cajili is an award-winning film editor, almost the same in stature, some say, to director Peque Gallaga.
These days, he is busy running the family business, a chain of restaurants that includes the popular brand Chicken House, Pepe’s and Balboa.
Chicken House alone used to have 10 branches scattered all over here and nearby cities.
After quarantines over seven months since February this year, Chicken House is down to five branches and has retrenched scores of workers.
“It was a painful decision,” Vito tells DNX about the decision to let go of employees, most of whom have become “part of a family” in a business that has survived rocky economic times over more than two decades.
Frank Carbon, executive director of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) considers the state of restaurants here, a once bustling metropolis of more than half a million people, as indicative of the state of the local economy.
“Businessmen are digging deep into their pockets but until how long they can do that, we don’t know,” Frank says in an interview on the day MBCCI issued a call to government to focus on generating more jobs and livelihood.
The business leader, whose group counts at least 200 members in the city alone, sounded upbeat as he pointed out that local businesses are starting to reopen and “slowly recovering.”
Outside investors, however, most engaged in real-estate development, have also slowed down, affecting the pace of their infrastructure projects that employ mass of workers.
The city is now under a General Community Quarantine, a de-escalated status under which restaurants are allowed dine-in at 50 percent capacity and public transportation has been allowed to resume.
To Carbon, two things define the economy now: local businesses have yet to recover their pre-COVID financial strength, and the community is “at its lowest purchasing power level.”
MBCCI proposes several measures to the local government to hasten recovery efforts: to give more focus and resources to jobs and livelihood generation, and maintaining peace and order.
They also proposed that the LGU should avail, if needed, of the financial assistance being offered by the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank, both State-owned banks.
Frank adds programs that will generate jobs and livelihood include restarting infrastructure projects, cash-for-work programs, and micro grants for micro businesses.
These, he hopes, can bring back the confidence of the community to the local economy “and encourage local businesses to reinvest and outside investors to restart their projects.”