Former Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez yesterday stressed the urgent need for a Negros Occidental recovery plan with COVID-19 having caused about P9.57 billion in economic loss to the province.
What is alarming is about 976,000 jobs may be lost in Negros Occidental and 83,000 overseas Filipino workers have returned translating to a potential loss of P7 billion in remittances, Benitez, provincial consultant on economic affairs, said.
Benitez presented his road to recovery plan framework at a meeting with Negros Occidental officials, department and office heads, and hospital chiefs, led by Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, and attended by Rep. Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District), at the Capitol Social Hall in Bacolod City.
He stressed the role of government in helping those affected by the economic devastation to get back on their feet, and on getting a digital revolution program off the ground to hasten recovery.
The program aims to connect all local government units, hospitals and schools into a network that will allow E-commerce, E-government, E-learning and telemedicine, he said.
Benitez said he expects the infrastructure to be in place by the end of the year, which will ensure connectivity even of far flung areas.
Lacson said “the road we are about to take is not the road less traveled, but the road not yet traveled at all.”
COVID-19 came quickly and with such intensity hitting both first world nations and developing countries, and causing economies to slump, he said.
“We are now in the second half of the year and the serious task on how we can save both lives and livelihood are staring at us in the face,” he said.
Lacson said hundreds to thousands of Negrenses from the sectors of agriculture, services, transportation, food and accommodation, construction and trade are gravely affected by the economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantine measures.
“Businesses now struggle to cover the costs of operations and how to pay their employees. Governments on the other hand are trying to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic,” he said.
Given that physical distancing might be the new norm for an indefinite period of time, such is a double edged sword, he said.
While it is beneficial to public health, it can add to the burden on the concerted efforts to revive the economy, Lacson said, as he stressed the need for innovative means to address both public health and economic concerns.
“The New Normal will lead us to new sets of behaviors, perspectives, approaches and even resilience in the face of a novel virus and an economy which needs to be recovered,” Lacson said.
Lacson, who marked his first year as governor yesterday, said it has been a very challenging first year especially with the advent of COVID-19.
The governor said he will deliver his state of the province report next week.*
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