When the whole province of Bohol was under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March 2020, all business establishments were ordered closed except public markets, slaughterhouses, supermarkets and grocery stores, hospitals and health facilities, pharmacies and drug stores, and other essential businesses. When the province transitioned to general community quarantine, some two months later, restaurants, service establishments, and other businesses as bookstores, accounting and legal offices, publishing and printing, are allowed to open but at 50% capacity. Throughout this period, the island province was closed to tourists and ports of entry were closed to incoming travelers, except for locally-stranded individuals and returning OFWs.
With these restrictions, it is unavoidable that businesses will have significant losses in revenues. Based on our study on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on Tagbilaran City, the service sector reported the worst decline in sales. Before the ECQ, the participants of the survey coming from this sector reported total sales of Php187.05 million. During the ECQ, sales dropped to Php31.60 million. As one of the measures that businesses used to cope with the heavy losses, 30% of the businesses temporarily reduced employment. This move of businesses resulted in more than 6,000 workers or employees who suffered a loss in income, if not a permanent loss in employment. In turn, affected workers resorted to finding alternative sources of income. Four out of 10 of the employees surveyed engaged in income-generating activities, the majority of whom engaged in selling products. As movement is limited, the majority of these workers advertised their products online.
This shift in the behavior of workers, and even businesses, as the latter also reconfigured their selling strategies, has increased online traffic, primarily via Facebook. Different products from consumables (e.g., cakes, barbecue, pansit) to non-consumables (e.g., seeds, flower pots, masks, water bottles) are sold online. Because only household members with quarantine passes can go out of the house to buy essentials, most transactions are now fulfilled online or via cash-on-delivery (COD). As a result, demand for delivery companies has surged, and workers who lost their jobs have resorted to becoming couriers using their motorcycles. Online selling platforms have resurfaced with much vigor. Barter is resurrected to exchange goods and services. Even philanthropy, through what was termed as “freecycle,” has become in vogue.
Indeed, the pandemic has changed the way we consume. Our switch to online sellers and delivery service to satisfy needs and wants is phenomenal. Technology adoption, especially in the case of online trade, is unprecedented. At the same time, several individuals who have been working full time in the past have reinvented themselves as chefs, bakers, horticulturists, all selling their goods online. Mutations have happened. Insurance brokers have become seafood retailers; musicians dessert peddlers. The flexibility of the human person was put to the test and has succeeded.
It’s funny that as soon as the national government has learned of this change, they immediately reacted with a possible tax measure, but later confirmed that those earning below Php250,000 are tax-exempt. Barter was initially labeled as illegal but was again clarified that if not within the purview of trade or business, it is allowed. Even when the community restrictions were relaxed, online buying and selling are still on the rise.
I personally think that we should show SUPPORT by patronizing our LOCAL SELLERS, whether they sell ONLINE or OFFLINE. This is part of the process of injecting liquidity into the local economy. The goods we buy do not only benefit the sellers, but they also benefit those that come before them in the value chain. If we buy rice cakes, the act also benefits farmers. It also benefits those that deliver them to our doorsteps. I strongly suggest the following
- Source out your household needs from local producers. If your neighbor grows vegetables, buy from him. If a fish peddler passes by, find something that you can buy. Stop by the side of the road for snacks of “ginanggang nga saging” or “puto maya”. Ditch the Rebisco crackers. Find every opportunity that you can to support local sellers. Substitute the convenience with the noble.
- Replace your “big company” purchases with “small-time producers” buys. Assess your monthly shopping list and be purposive as to how much you can allocate for local purchases. Instead of buying CDO tocino, find a local producer that sells the same. Instead of purchasing Jollibee’s chicken, support those that are selling more delicious chicken wings with rice. A lot of them are within a 3-kilometer radius from where you live or work.
- Opt for delivery and support local riders. Though you know that the producer or seller is just a 5-minute drive away, have the goods delivered, even when it’s not free. Most local delivery companies are dependable. Add in that Php50 delivery charge. Think about providing a job for somebody else with that little act of kindness. When the guy comes in earlier than expected, please give him a Php10 or a Php20 more. It can already do a lot. That’s almost a quarter of a liter of gasoline.
- Drop a good review, use your influence to increase traffic to sellers selling good stuff. If you are satisfied with your purchase, blow the trumpet of announcement hard. Tell your friends, take a picture of that good stuff, post it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Tell others to support the seller. You will be surprised that it will work wonders for them.
- Target a portion of your monthly budget for local purchases. To make your intentions concrete and more purposive, be intentional with your monthly budget. Allocate at least 50% of your total monthly provision to local purchases. As much as you can, stick to it. It will really do the local economy well.
Our ability to withstand this pandemic, and the economic crisis that comes with it, is dependent on how we help each other survive. We wear masks to protect each other. We follow health protocols to contain the spread of the virus. In the same way, we purchase from local producers so we can protect each other from economic collapse. We are all in this together. If we help each other, all of us will get through this together, alive.