Palace: Without funds, MECQ canât be extended
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday reiterated that the government was not inclined to extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal unless Congress allocates a budget for emergency aid to vulnerable sectors.
Michael Varcas
Palace: Without funds, MECQ can’t be extended
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is expected to announce on Monday the new quarantine classifications for Metro Manila and other areas, but Malacañang deemed it highly unlikely for the metropolis and nearby provinces to remain under strict lockdown.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday reiterated that the government was not inclined to extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal unless Congress allocates a budget for emergency aid to vulnerable sectors.

“I’ve already said it’s unlikely unless Congress provides for aid... because the President said so,” he said.

Duterte has said he could not afford to impose lockdowns because the government no longer has funds to finance aid programs for displaced workers.

Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces were placed under MECQ from Aug. 4 to 18 after health workers had requested for a two-week “timeout” to allow government to improve its pandemic response.

The areas, which contribute more than two-thirds of the Philippines’ economic output, used to be under the lenient general community quarantine, where most businesses and public transportation are allowed to operate.

“We expect the President to deliver a message to the people on Aug. 17 and he will also announce the new classifications,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“The MECQ in Metro Manila will end on Aug. 18 so expect the President to announce the new classification in Metro Manila and nearby provinces,” he added. ?Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has made recommendations on quarantine classifications, except for Metro Manila and the four provinces that reverted to MECQ.

“So I think it is without prejudice that the classification for areas other than Metro Manila and the four provinces will be up to the 15th,” he added.

Roque said the nationwide critical care capacity is no longer in the danger zone. The government, he added, is even set to inaugurate a facility with a 250-bed capacity on Aug. 17.

“One of the reasons why the IATF has deferred its decision on the classification of Metro Manila and nearby areas is because we are inaugurating the 250-bed capacity, it will change the critical care capacity of Metro Manila,” the Palace spokesman said.

“My prediction is if the case doubling time does not worsen, if it improves, maybe there is a possibility that (Metro Manila will be under) MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) because Metro Manila will have a higher critical care capacity,” he added.

Roque clarified later on that he was just speculating when he raised the possibility of easing restrictions in Metro Manila.

“It’s a decision of the IATF but on the basis of critical care capacity, if we proceed with the inauguration and use of the 250 additional bed capacity, perhaps it is possible. But it’s just one factor. The case doubling rate should be longer,” Roque said.

Metro Manila’s case doubling rate is nine days while the requirement for an area to be downgraded to the most lenient MGCQ is 28 days.?Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez, who is also chairman of the Metro Manila Council that consists of all mayors in the metropolis, said Metro Manila would be reverted back to GCQ if COVID-19 cases continue to decline.

Olivarez said that the MECQ was able to reduce the movement of people.

“Under MECQ, we were able to control the mobility of people. We also implemented the quarantine pass anew,” Olivarez said in a television interview yesterday, saying only authorized persons outside residence were allowed to go out.

He noted that the decreased number of active COVID-19 cases in Parañaque City showed the effectivity of the strict lockdown.

“If this trend from Aug. 4th continues, most probably we would be returning to the GCQ,” the mayor said.— Ralph Edwin Villanueva

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