Local businesses that were finally allowed to resume under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status in Palawan are embarking on a new way of doing business.

For starters, they had to mind their physical set up to conform with minimum health standards in the operations of their establishments, including insuring social distancing and observing other health protocols.

Executive Order No. 2020-028 issued by the city government adopted the guidelines given by Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) for barbershops, salons, other personal care services, dine-in service in food retail establishments and food preparation establishments are now allowed to operate at a maximum of 50 percent venue and seating capacity.

Erik Yayen, owner of Ka Inato in Brgy. San Manuel, said Monday that he is preparing measures for the hygiene and sanitation in the area for customers that will dine in, and his staff who need to be in personal protective equipment (PPEs).

“May mga preparation na kaming ginagawa like putting up ng mga washing area, foot bath, signages, at saka sa mga tao naman we are already prepared sa mga PPEs nila, sa gloves, alcohol,” Yayen said.

He added, however, that they have not yet allowed dine-in patrons as they await clearer guidelines from the city government.

“Meron na ang IATF pero magkakaroon ng kaunting restrictions kung yong mga minimum health protocols ay masusunod,” Erik said.

Yayen said that he also started to prepare his employees for training to comply with health protocols required by IATF. He said that he also purchased a thermal scanner for the customers.

Ka Inato in San Manuel has a 200-person capacity but due to the regulation of IATF, it can only accommodate 100 customers in their area.

“Kami naman we are just waiting kasi ang pagkakaintindi kasi ay magkakaroon sila ng inspection muna kung may placement ka na ba ng mga hinihingi nila sa IATF. Sa chamber naman ay meron kami mga guidelines na tinitingnan, binababa ng IATF pero we are still waiting for the city government kung papaano yong sa local,” he said.

Erik added that he will definitely reduce the number of crew in every shift to comply with the maximum capacity.

He said that they will minimize their contact with the guests to also secure the health security of the employees.

Erik said that they will use money trays in accepting payment and he is also working out to improve the website to set up payments through the use of cards or pre-order setups before going to the restaurant.

“Dadami lang siya dahil sa pagpasok nila, meron dapat tao na magti-thermal scan tapos yong comfort rooms, yong regular na hinahawakan ng mga guest dapat every 30 minutes ay pinupunasan. Actually, parang mas magastos yon sa part ng establishment to follow the protocol. Especially sa amin, malaki ang lugar namin so malamang 50 % ng aming crew ay makapasok,” he said.

“Talagang less contact with (guests) and yong utensils should be sanitized every now and then. First contact mo sa customer, dapat maghugas ka ng kamay. Kailangan ituro namin sa mga tao especially we have PWDs na nagtatrabaho sa amin, siguro this coming week muna ay puro training sa mga tao,” he added.

John Christian Yayen of Haim Chicken on his Facebook post stated their regulation with their dine-in services such as implementing the no mask, no entry policy.

There will also be a health list documentation wherein names and phone numbers of customers will be asked for the establishment’s record in case of the need to do contact tracing.

“You will have your temperature checked, spray your hands with alcohol, and step on a foot bath before you go inside an establishment (mall entrances or restaurant entrances for stand-alone stores),” he said.

Contactless payment methods are encouraged. The social distancing will be implemented through one table one person, marking for lines and queues are provided and there will be a meter spacing of tables. Long tables for group diners will have to adhere to social distancing guidelines, it added.

Staff will be instructed to wear PPEs and to also have the least amount of contact with customers.

Butch Chase of Kinabuch Grill and Bar says the pressure in re-opening of business operation is more exhausting due to number of regulations to follow.

“Ang pressure nitong pangalawang pagbukas is more nakakapagod dahil marami ka rules na susundin ngayon compared noon. Noon, yong preparation ng food mo, serving dapat maganda, masarap pagkain, walang problema. Ngayon, ichi-check mo yong guests mo, employees mo,” he said.

Butch has advised his employees not to report for work if they feel sick or having a cough and cold so it will not be spread to others.

He said that as he opened his place on Monday, it was spacious compared to the usual set up. Kinabuch Grill and Bar has a capacity of 250 persons but it can only cater up to 30 or 40 percent of the area.

Butch said he also put up a foot bath and thermal scanner to check the guests. They are also getting the contact details of the customers for their records in case of tracking purposes.

Employees are all equipped with gloves and masks. He arranged his staff in a rotation scheme that will take duties alternately so all of them will retain their jobs and still earn for their families.

“Yong dating apat na silya, ngayon dalawa na lang. Iyong anim ay tatlo na lang. Halimbawa yong isang buong pang-animan na tao, bale anim na mesang square, anim lang din ang tao, so ang laki ng nawala,” he said.

Aside from restaurants and dine-in services, barbershops and salons also resumed their operations on Monday.

Dezerie Pinuela of Previa salon in Puerto Princesa said that they are now implementing a meter distance between staff and customers.

“Nagka-conduct pa rin kami ng one meter na social distancing sa mga staff at sa mga customer syempre at least one meter,” she said.

Previa salon can accommodate up to 10 customers a day but due to the new guidelines, it could only serve up to five individuals only.

She said that to maintain less contact with customers, Previa salon is just accepting bookings for their services but they could still accommodate walk-in services if there any slots available within the day.

Employees of the salon are all wearing face shields, masks, and equipped with gloves in holding the customer’s hair in grooming.

“Palit ng gloves, maghugas ng kamay then alcohol ganon uli kada client, ganon yong ginagawa namin. Wala na kaming shifting, four staffs na rin ang meron ako so kaya rin sa social distancing,” Dezerie said.

“Ang ginawa namin ay meron kami maliit na basket para iaabot sa customer, doon nila ilalagay yong payment saka iaabot sa amin, ganon na lang yon,” she added.

She said that they had implemented the measures before when operations were initially allowed in the transition of ECQ to GCQ before retracted by the IATF.

Effect of quarantine controls in business operations

Erik admitted that their operation was hit by the quarantine controls that could result in reduction of staff in considering the operational cost of Ka Inato and the purchasing power of the public.

“On a business side kung ako tatanungin mo ngayon, dapat magbawas ka kaya lang di pwedeng magtanggal ka lang basta-basta, you have to follow the DOLE kung magri-retrench ka. Supposed to be a lot of business sa grupo namin dito sa Puerto Princesa nagbawas talaga but kailangan magbayad ka ng separation pay. Sa amin sa Ka Inato ay mapipilitan na magbawas talaga kasi hindi namin kakayanin yong operational cost,” he said.

“Even if they increase the capacity pero tinitingnan namin ang purchasing power ng mga tao, wala naman kasi kami noon — ang customer namin ay ABCD, we are looking at the need na kailangan talaga magbawas,” he said.

Even Dezerie agreed that the income of her salon was also affected by the pandemic threat but she said that following the health protocols for their clients will also benefit everyone.

“Yes sobra, medyo kalakihan ‘yong nawala sa amin pero kung iisipin mo naman yong health mo then yong health ng clients mo syempre iyon naman ang gusto ng city kaya sinusunod lang natin yong protocols pero kaya rin naman kahit papaano,” she said.

Butch said that local businesses must be supported as the resumption of operations allowed in MGCQ to help the economy of the city.

“Sana tayo ay magtulungan, kahit yong ibang restaurants sana magbukas na yong iba to promote the local tourism, magtulungan tayong lahat,” Butch said.

“Most important na matulungan yong bawat isa sa atin sa Palawan sa local tourism, local economy para umikot ang pera, ang tao may trabaho kahit papano may kikitain sya, may ibibili sya ng pagkain niya,” he said.