Construction sector to adhere to gov’t protocols to move forward


Adherence to strict health protocols as mandated by the government is the only way to move forward under the new normal, including the construction industry that has been drastically hit by the lockdown that began mid-March this year.

Jigger Canedo, president of the FRASEC Ventures Corp., said another way to advance despite the COVID-19 pandemic in the construction sector is to establish protocols to protect their workplace including their employees.

“As contractors and stakeholders of the industry, we hold ourselves accountable for what happens in our job sites and to our employees. We have the responsibility to adhere to the guidelines and establish our protocols to protect our work environment,” said Canedo during the Online Peer Talks 3 on “Time of Transition: Defining the New Normal in the Construction and Tourism Industry” undertaken by the Regional Development Council-Social Development Committee 7.

In a survey conducted by the Cebu Contractors Association Inc. on the impact of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the construction industry, around 69 percent of its members said they have fully shut down business operations.

Fifteen percent of the respondents expected a slowdown in business of up to 75 percent, while another 15 percent experienced between 76 to 90 percent business contraction.

Those who gave feedback said projects located in different regions with total contract value worth P7.350-B were affected by the lockdown, of which P5.126-B are projects located in Central Visayas or equivalent to 69.8 percent.

Results of the survey also showed estimated revenue losses for one quarter reached P1.446 billion, while some 63 percent of the respondents said they are expecting revenue losses greater than 51 percent.

With the revenue losses, 68 percent of the respondents anticipate the need for additional funding for the remaining months this year.

A dismal 6.25 percent said they are well prepared to withstand the crisis this year.

Among the measures identified to raise liquidity under ECQ, collecting receivables came on top at 19.3 percent followed by restructuring debt at 16.18 percent and third, extending payables at 14.71 percent.

Laying off employees, delaying tax payments and drawing additional loans or credit are three interventions that tied at 11.76 percent, while Infusing fresh equity scored 8.82 percent and selling assets and deferring capital expenditures were at the bottom of the measures at 5.88 percent.

More than half of the respondents at 67 percent said recovery would be within six months, but for the remaining 33 percent, they believe recovery would be beyond six months.

Looking ahead, Canedo said the construction industry identified four measures or the 4Ms to consider for work resumption: manpower, methods, material supply, and money.

Safety and health are paramount and keeping job sites free from contamination must be ensured prior to resumption of work, said Canedo, adding that only necessary manpower should be recalled while improving facilities, doing rapid testing, mandatory quarantine and contact tracing when necessary, ensuring adequate food and water supply within premises and signing of new Occupational Safety and Health policy.

Upon return to work, companies must limit or avoid contact of workers inside job sites, maintain good sanitation in the facilities, increase roles or empowerment of the safety and health officers and no overtime policy, said Canedo.

Methods, on the other hand, refer to the adoption of new procedures to change the behaviors in the workplace, such as educating workers on how to minimize the spread of the disease and what to do in case of symptoms, conducting coronavirus-themed toolbox meetings, and multi-skilling or multi-tasking, said Canedo.

According to Canedo, materials as a resource would focus on efficient supply chain planning to ensure sufficient construction materials and supplies in the job sites including the daily provision for the workers, protective personal equipment, and disinfection agents, as well as observance of disinfection protocols.

Lastly, money as the financial support from public and private funds to allow quick recovery of businesses.

Canedo said stimulus actions from the national government are needed such as tax benefits and tax relief for the duration of the pandemic, cash assistance for medical expenditures of COVID- patients, and support to businesses for loan relief applications and come up with quick guidelines to ensure expediency.

Canedo further said challenges facing the industry include the carrying cost of rapid testing, overhead cost for facilities, transporting workers to job sites and cost to recover reduction in efficiencies or productivity; financial institutions are on conservative mode; and questions whether a company face suspension or termination in case of violating COVID-19 protocols and protection from labor cases if contamination happens in job sites, among others.

To help in nation building, Canedo said they enjoin their members to do their share in preserving the ecosystem and pursue the industry’s mission of exemplifying high standards of ethical conduct in operating their business.

The impact on the construction sector, however, on the declaration of the Interagency Task Force on Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), reverting Cebu City back to an ECQ due to rising COVID-19 cases and Talisay City to modified ECQ starting June 16 until June 30 remains to be seen. (pia7/fr)