Quarantine likely to last until April 30

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Quarantine likely to last until April 30

MANILA, Philippines — It’s a bitter pill for all, and costly for the government, but President Duterte is likely to extend the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine for another two weeks after Holy Week, until April 30.

“We are inclined to extend the lockdown up to April 30,” Duterte said last night in his address to the nation at the start of what is supposed to be the fourth and final week of the Luzon-wide quarantine.

Likening the coronavirus disease 2019 to a threat “worse than war” because the enemy is unseen, Duterte lamented, “Bakit sa panahon ko tumama ito (Why did this strike during my time)?”

He also urged the nation to pray together tomorrow.

“This being the Holy Week, I am calling on the nation to come together this Holy Wednesday afternoon and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Filipino, and unite in prayer to God to defeat a common enemy,” he said. “God is really the only one who can solve the problem for us.”

Duterte asked aloud if the situation had improved in three weeks of quarantine. Answering his own question, he said, “I don’t know.”

He directed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to do anything – even steal or borrow – “magnakaw ka, manghiram ka” – just to make sure the government can continue providing assistance to the hardest hit poorest of the poor amid the continuing quarantine.

Duterte said the P200 billion emergency assistance approved by Congress, which is now being distributed to the poor, isn’t going top be enough amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It gives me nightmares,” he said, adding that he was losing sleep and getting thin from the problem. “I don’t know where I will get the money (to help everyone).”

To ensure sufficient aid to the hardest hit sectors, the annual national budget may have to be adjusted, with certain projects dropped.

Even the middle class needs help, he stressed, as he urged those with the means in the private sector to continue helping the less privileged.

Noting that people “save a penny for a rainy day,” he said, “What is sad is the rain has come.”

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 a slower economic activity
“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,” he said.

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