Duterte inclined to extend Luzon lockdown until April 30

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines (Update 3; 11:28 p.m.) — The government is "inclined" to extend the Luzon-wide lockdown until April 30, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday, as he admitted that the funds allotted for a multibillion-peso aid package may not be enough to support low-income households for two months.

"We are inclined to extend the lockdown up to April 30," Duterte said in a televised address Monday night.

"Wala tayong panalo dito. Eh kung mabaril lang ito, wala na. Tapos na ito. Bigay ko lang sa isang company ng sundalo (We do not stand to win in this fight. If we can only shoot this, it would have been over. I would have ordered a company of soldiers to do it)," he added.

Duterte admitted that the government is getting "desperate" as it is under pressure to spend money even if it is not generating enough revenues due to slower economic activity

"The P100 billion for one month or P270 billion for two months as estimated earlier is not enough. I'm calling on the secretary of finance to generate (revenues). Magnakaw ka, manghiram ka magproduce ka ng pera. Pag naubos na ito, di ko malaman (You steal, you borrow, produce money. If it runs out, I don't know)," Duterte said.

"Huwag ninyo subukan ang gobyerno kasi pati gobyerno desperado na (Do not test the government because the government is getting desperate)." 

Duterte assured the public that he would prioritize giving poor families food despite the limited resources.

"We are finding ways to adjust the budget... We will prioritize the people, the stomach. If they have nothing to eat, a human being can become violent," the president said.

Duterte also vowed to study proposals to provide aid to middle-income families.

Stay home

During his address, the president stressed that people must stay home to stop COVID-19 from spreading, saying the solution to the global pandemic is "do not get infected, do not leave the house."

He added that those who do not believe in staying home can take the risk of being infected and dying. He said that there would not even be a funeral for those people because the remains of COVID-19 fatalities are to be cremated.

In his address, Duterte said that the P275 billion that Congress authorized him to spend would be gone in two months, adding that the Department of Finance should find ways to raise money for the country's needs.

"Government money has a limit. But we have food. Rice, I will try to find a way," the president said in Filipino, hinting that an unnamed country was refusing to sell the Philippines rice until the COVID-19 crisis passes.

"Hindi ko alam kung kailan kayo sabihin ko sa inyo sa bahay lang kayo. Hindi ko alam kung kailan ako makahatid ng pagkain sa lahat," the president also said. "Hindi ko alam kung saan ako kukuha ng pera. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang ipagbili na kung may magbibili... so just stay alert."

(I do not know until when I will tell you to stay at home. I do not now when I can have food delivered to everyone. I do not know where I will get money. I do not know what I can sell and if anyone is buying...so just stay alert.)

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would consider several factors before coming up with a recommendation to the president, who would then make the final decision on the lockdown.

"We have to make a decision and we have to make it as soon as possible. But it will not be an easy decision, napakahirap po (it would be very difficult). It’s very, very difficult only because a lot of factors have to be taken into account — the welfare of the people, health, economics, social, security, everything," Nograles said in a televised press briefing.

"So, whatever the decision would be, whether it's today or tomorrow or the following day, let us unite and support that decision," he added.

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