'Maawa naman kayo': Govt hit for last-minute decision to retract GCQ shift in Metro Manila

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 8) — Some members of the restaurant industry and a local official decried the national government's last-minute announcement that Metro Manila will not yet ease to a more relaxed community quarantine status.

The retraction led to loss of money, effort, and time, restaurant owner Inchang Mendoza, Vikings Buffet Restaurant marketing consultant Stella Sy, and Manila City Bureau of Permits chief Levi Facundo lamented.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) announced on Sept. 4 that the National Capital Region (NCR) will shift to general community quarantine with granular lockdowns.

Three days later, the government announced it will push through but the guidelines are being finalized for the implementation on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, however, officials backtracked, saying the NCR will stay under the strict modified enhanced community quarantine until the experimental policy is finetuned.

Mendoza said her staff held several meetings and cleaned up the entire restaurant located in Manila in preparation for its much-awaited reopening.

They also bought hundreds of kilos of pork, chicken, and beef for the opening of the samgyupsal restaurant. she added.

The entreprenuer said she realized the meat and poultry products will go to waste since restaurants will remain prohibited from operating under MECQ to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

She said small businesses that are already bleeding from a year and a half of restrictions are suffering more because of the government's lack of planning.

Mendoza added she also worried about her 27 employees who are not getting paid if they do not go to work.

"Dear goverment, maawa naman kayo sa mga taong sobrang naapektuhan na nagta-trabaho ng maayos!" she said in a Facebook post. "Hindi kayang sumurvive ng small business owner sa ganyang eksena ng gobyerno!!! Bigyan niyo kami ng maayos na plano!!”

[Translation: Dear government, have some heart for those wanting to work who are severely affected! Small business owners cannot survive if the government continues to perform like this! Give us concrete plans!]

Restaurant owners also criticized the government back in August when the IATF suddenly barred dine-in and al fresco dining when Metro Manila shifted to MECQ.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Final Word, Sy shared the same experience for the food chain.

"Kahapon ang saya-saya na (Yesterday we were all happy)...we were all excited kasi (because) it's been 40 days na walang pasok ang mga employees (that employees are not able to go to work). Out of 11 Vikings, we only had two stores open for the takeout pero ilan lang silang pumapasok (but only a few go to work)," Sy said.

However, the government's constant change in policy required them to always adjust marketing budget, she said. Stocks they bought for the reopening would now have to be sold as well, she added.

"Mahirap iyong ginagawa nila (What they are doing is very challenging for us) because it's been how many months na wala kaming negosyo (that we have no operations) for the buffet business," Sy said.

She also noted how this affected their employees who have to look for sideline work while their business is temporarily closed.

Sy added that the government should compensate losses of businesses due to their flip flopping.

Facundo, meanwhile, said his team dropped other important tasks just so they can accommodate the opening of essential businesses slated for Wednesday.

“I just hate the fact that a lot (of) time was wasted," Facundo said in a statement posted by the Manila Public Information Office. "The most expensive investment we put in is time. We cannot bring it back anymore!”

The Manila City official urged the national government to "think thrice" before making any announcements so it does not lead to confusion and wasted time and effort.

"Examine before proposing," Facundo said. "See if the plan is bullet proof. Plan ahead... It’s not like all these happened only last night. It’s been 16 months!”