Small traders: Battling two fronts

Former Overseas Filipino Worker Rogelio de Leon survived homesickness working abroad for almost two decades, and now he’s fighting for his small business to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small traders: Battling two fronts
Former overseas Filipino worker Rogelio de Leon
"Small businesses like mine are feeling the impact of COVID-19," said De Leon.

De Leon said he was a small businessman trying to work hard for at least 10 hours a day just to make both ends meet for three years now "since I decided to quit my job abroad."

"It's really hard to cope and adjust my life here, putting up a business which (is) way out of (my) league," the 50-year old father of three said.

Like thousands of small businesses in Metro Manila, De Leon's shirt printing shop in Quezon City had to close indefinitely in March because of the enhanced community quarantine imposed by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.

"The pandemic came and you are forced to close your shop with no assurance of getting a financial aid from the government, and staying at home with a tight budget."

"I envy those who got financial assistance from the government. Very few are selected to get assistance, but what about us, the business owners and the middle class citizens as if we're not part of society?" he said.

And being the sole provider and head of the family, De Leon is struggling to figure out how his small business will rebound from the crisis when he can resume his business.

"It's been two months and some restrictions have (been) lifted. We are hoping we can go back to our work but there's some hesitation, worrying (we'll) be taking a risk, and if it's going to be normal again, I'm getting paranoid," De Leon said.

The government last Saturday lifted the ECQ and shifted to modified ECQ in Metro Manila, Cebu and Laguna until May 31.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. said under MECQ, there were more sectors and industries that will be opened, mostly with 50 percent of employees allowed to work on-site. Responding to Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez's interpellation on House Bill 6732, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano defended the requirement for ABS-CBN to allocate 10 percent of its paid commercials and advertisement to the national government.

At the plenary session Monday, Rodriguez cited Section 4 of the bill authored by Cayetano that proposes a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020.

Section 4 the bill states that the network shall “provide free of charge, adequate public service time which is reasonable and sufficient to enable the government” to relay important public issues and important public announcements concerning public emergencies and calamities.

It defines “public service time” as “ten percent of the paid commercials or advertisements which shall be allocated based on the need to the executive, legislative judiciary, constitutional commissions and international humanitarian organizations duly recognized by statutes.”

Cayetano said the ten percent requirement was also applied in GMA Network Inc.’s (GMA-7) current franchise as contained in Republic Act 10925 which granted GMA-7 its current 25-year franchise back in 2017.

“I happen to be in the Senate during this time. So yung huling provision, unfair kasi sa Channel 7 or sa other channels kung 10% of advertisements paid for will be free sa government, tapos sa iba hindi,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano, a lawyer, said he believes ABS-CBN’s franchise should have been amended as early as 2017 to include a similar provision. “So this is actually an equalizer provision. So if we don’t put this in the ABS-CBN franchise whether it’s for a temporary or a 25-year franchise, other channels will not be operationalized."

Topics: Overseas Filipino Worker , Rogelio de Leon , COVID-19 pandemic , small business
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