IN A NUTSHELL
- Business leader lauds “open for business” policies of Negros Occidental Gov. Lacson and Iloilo and Bacolod mayors
- 30 to 40 percent of economic activity in Iloilo and Bacolod cities stimulated by inter-island travel, he says
- Multisectoral body that met on boat trips resumption seeks interpretation of and standardization of health protocols by regional IATF
And I ye yay
Will always love youuuuu
Ho wo ho ho
Will always love you
I will always, lahahav youuuuu”
Whitney Houston was hitting the high notes on the stereo of the rented car we were riding in when the VHF two-way radio crackled.
“Wala gid pasahero ba! Mala mala gid! (There’s no passengers, it’s really bad!)” a man’s voice said, sounding frustrated as our driver put on the brakes at the intersection of La Salle Avenue and BS Aquino Drive.
It was 8:30, Thursday morning, a time and day when La Salle Avenue is usually, pre COVID days, swarming with public and private cars dropping off students at the Bacolod campus of the University of St. La Salle or, further ahead, the premier St. Scholastica’s Academy.
Usually, there would be swearing and cussing as drivers jockey for a slice of the less than a kilometer road usually one of the most congested streets here when classes are open.
“Pwede ko gid siya breakan pero indi ko gusto sa sini nga panahon (I can break off from her but I don’t want to in this time),” one of the store attendants in a mall-based hardware store tells his associate, unmindful that customers can hear him.
There were only a few on a Sunday.
A customer asked for garden mesh,”out of stock,” the lover boy attendant says.
The gardening section was ready for a restock, plastic plant pots looked like they were running out and the seeds of usual suspects in the garden – tomatoes, okra, eggplant – were missing.
“Products here seem to be fast moving, sir,” a front of store attendant tells this reporter as a guard asks them to ready for the store closure for the day.
It was only 5:30pm.
“We close at 6pm on Sundays,” the guard says.
As Sugarlandia’s political and economic capital, this city is usually bursting at the seams months before December.
Traffic, over the past few years, surges during the months leading to December, starting in October when all roads lead to this city for its annual fiesta, the MassKara Festival.
Mayor Evelio Leonardia cancelled it this year.
Today, in a news conference at City Hall, Leonardia said one of the hardest hit industries is tourism that has almost grounded to a halt as leisure travel was prohibited and as hotels were rented to become isolation facilities.
Last week, Leonardia and his counterpart in Iloilo City, Jerry Treñas, signed separate executive orders allowing the resumption of boat trips between Iloilo and Bacolod that bridge the islands of Panay and Negros.
The executive orders of Leonardia and Treñas have practically allowed the return of the trips with less restrictions as both their cities are under General Community Quarantine.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, on the other hand, has also allowed the return of trips with the condition that there should be swab tests upon arrival at the port of entry here.
During a meeting last week attended by Leonardia, Treñas, a representative of Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. and boat owners, the resumption of trips hit a minor snag when Defensor’s representative said the province’s policy on travel requires incoming passengers to be swabbed and isolated for two weeks, a policy similar to the protocols for locally-stranded individuals or LSIs.
Frank Carbon, who represents one of the fast craft companies plying the Bacolod-Iloilo route, said this would make ferry boat operators take a hard look at resuming trips.
Carbon praised Lacson, Leonardia and Treñas whose policies, he said, have practically signalled an “open for business” attitude that bodes well for local businesses in Iloilo and here.
The local business leader, who is also executive director of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said at least 30 to 40 percent of economic activity in Iloilo and Bacolod is stimulated by inter-island travel.
The sooner the trips resume, the better it would be for the entire region.
Negros island has two provinces – the Oriental and Occidental – while Panay island has four, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Capiz and Iloilo.
Guimaras is separate from Panay island, however.
At least eight million people live in the two islands.