Palace: Households in ECQ areas to get cash aid

Palace: Households in ECQ areas to get cash aid
This undated photo shows individuals lining up to receive COVID-19 financial assistance from the government
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The Palace on Thursday said it would extend financial aid to families in areas under Enhanced Community Quarantine — the most restricted quarantine classification — in August but added there might not be enough money for aid in case of  a lockdown in Metro Manila. 

The order covers a million people in Iloilo City, Iloilo province, Cagayan de Oro, and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental. These areas will stay in Enhanced Community Quarantine until August 7. 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government approved financial of P1,000 per individual, or up to P4,000 per household. 

"The funds for this are now being downloaded to local governments," he said in Filipino at a briefing.

Roque added the aid would be sourced from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

While the four areas are sure of assistance, Roque said he does not know if the same could be said for Metro Manila should the capital region also revert to ECQ. 

Metro Manila's mayors have called for a two-week lockdown amid the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19. They said they are willing to go into ECQ but appealed for cash aid and more vaccines.

Metro Manila is home to 13.4 million people, per the 2020 census.

"The issue is will we have something to give for aid?" Roque said in Filipino. "The truth is, I don't know if we still can still have funds for a wider lockdown."

He added putting Metro Manila under ECQ could spell more job losses as well as additional hunger for families in the capital. Roque said the region accounts for 60% of the country's gross domestic product.

Earlier this week, members of think tank OCTA Research called for a "circuit-breaker" lockdown to stem the ongoing increase in COVID-19 infections in the capital region. "Circuit breaker" is the term that Singapore uses for lockdowns meant to reduce social interaction and potential exposure to the virus.

OCTA Research fellow Ranjit Rye underscored that tightening curbs early could bring down COVID-19 cases and also save the economy. "If we lock down later with already 5,000 cases, we will be closed down for months," he told a government briefing. 

Roque said government would look for the funds if Metro Manila is put under ECQ. He added the pandemic task force will meet with mayors this afternoon. 

"We will hear them out but if their recommendation is for ECQ with aid, I don't know if we will have something to give," he continued in Filipino. 

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