Members of the Economy Cluster of the Regional Task Force COVID-19 discussed updates and accomplishments as well as issues and challenges in the implementation of COVID-19 policies, programs and projects during its second virtual meeting on 14 April 2020.

During the meeting, the Department of Energy (DOE) highlighted its continuing efforts to ensure the uninterrupted supply of power to the region by directing the continued operation of power plants and facilitating the unimpeded delivery of energy-related supplies and personnel.

Additionally, the DOE shared that they have recently issued a memorandum allowing Local Government Units (LGUs) to access funds from Energy Regulation 1-94 (ER 1-94) to assist their efforts in containing COVID-19.

Under ER 1-94, communities hosting power producing facilities are entitled to one-centavo per kilowatt hour (P0.01/kWh) of the total electricity sales to be used for specific projects.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) assures that there is enough supply of rice in the region. DA VIII Regional Executive Director Angel C. Enriquez cited that the 300,000 metric tons in stock at the National Food Authority (NFA) will be beefed up by the ongoing harvest across the region.

The agency also issues food lane passes to ensure that transportation of food supply and farm inputs are not hampered. This also supports continued farming and fishing operations in the region. As of April 8, a total of 980 food lane passes have already been issued by the agency.

DA is also monitoring prices of basic agricultural products. Generally, prices have been stable throughout the region despite the continuing community quarantine (CQ) measures in place.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), on the other hand, is helping tourism enterprises and cooperatives avail of the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and Tulong Panghanap Buhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers Program (TUPAD). Both programs aim to provide temporary income for workers displaced by the widespread quarantine measures.

The agency has also assisted LGUs find hotels that are willing to provide accommodations to front liners and health workers in support of CQ. Aside from this, DOT VIII also assisted the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) scout for hotels that are willing to serve as quarantine places for Overseas Filipino Workers/repatriates upon their return to the region.

DOT VIII is likewise helping stranded foreign and domestic tourists in the region return home. Currently, several tourists have already departed, while some are still stranded due to the scarcity of flights and transport out of the region.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) reported the grant of a 30-day grace period for the payment of residential and commercial rent from the end of the CQ. Also, they are extending low-interest loans, especially to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Tacloban-Leyte, Inc. and the Tacloban Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, through Presidents Eugene A. Tan and Go Tic Ching respectively, presented a joint resolution proposing policy measures to mitigate the economic Impact of COVID-19 to MSMEs. While NEDA VIII pointed out that some of the recommendations were already being acted upon, the resolution will be referred to concerned agencies for action.

The meeting was conducted virtually in observance of social distancing protocols and precautionary measures in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was joined in by the Regional Directors and representatives of NEDA, DTI, DOT, DA, OCD, DILG, DOE, DICT, Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) and the PCCI.

The Economic Cluster, chaired by NEDA VIII, is tasked to ensure 1) adequate supply and monitoring of prices in the region, 2) activation and monitoring of business continuity plans, 3) provision of social welfare benefits for displaced workers, and 4) formulation of policies, plans, programs and projects to protect the economic interest of the region.

Article and Photos by:  Knulp Aseo, NEDA VIII