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Provinces want time to study COVID-19 alert system before use

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Provinces want time to study COVID-19 alert system before use
A sign warning people not to enter the Pasay City Sports Complex is seen at the entrance on Sept. 3, 2021 as it was converted into one of the isolation facilities of the local government to augment the overwhelmed hospitals in the city.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The League of Provinces of the Philippines on Wednesday urged the national government's coronavirus task force to defer the expansion of the pilot alert level system to areas outside the capital region to November 1.

Speaking in an interview aired over dzMM TeleRadyo, Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco, president of the league, said that local chiefs in the areas due to shift to the new system would need time to study the new rules and craft orders for implementation. 

This comes a day after the national government announced the COVID-19 Alert Level System will be implemented outside the National Capital Region from October 20 to October 31. 

"That's something we have hesitations about, that we now have to implement this Alert Level System so suddenly. We still need to study it," Velasco said in Filipino.

"We're asking if we can start on November 1, so the local chief executives can draft their own executive orders and look at what reasonable regulations they can impose in their localities."

Velasco pointed to Article 2 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, which says that laws shall take effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines.

The IATF resolutions are not laws, and local government units often take cues from the task force on pandemic response policies. In March 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte reminded local government units to follow national guidelines on pandemic response. He said LGUs should not be "setting your own standards and making this lockdown more difficult for all."

"I was a mayor myself, in case you have forgotten, but this is an emergency of national proportion and therefore it is the national government that should call the shots," Duterte said then.

Velasco said Wednesday that the shift to a new quarantine classification system "can't be done hastily...we're asking for sufficient time to conduct our meetings." 

"It’s stated in the Omnibus guidelines in the implementation of the alert level system in the NCR that LGUs have the right to include reasonable regulations," he also said.

READ: A guide to the COVID-19 alert levels system

Bumpy start for alert level system in NCR

Local governments have already carried significant responsibility in implementing the government's vaccination and pandemic response programs. 

Duterte, himself a former mayor, has placed premium on "discipline" in his administration's pandemic response. The former Davao City chief once told local execs to just do what the national government says or face sanctions.

When the IATF decided to implement the granular lockdown system across Metro Manila, the capital region's mayors were also caught off guard as the decision to institute the system was announced to the public before the pandemic task disseminated official guidelines. 

With no national guidelines to go on, the capital region's chief executives had yet to issue executive orders for their localities on the day that the pilot implementation was scheduled to begin. 

Local government workers that Philstar.com spoke with at the time said that task force meetings on the guidelines were still ongoing — even as the local government units were already expected to prepare for the pilot run.

READ: What we know so far on the granular lockdown system in Metro Manila

Which areas are now under the Alert Level System?

According to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Negros Oriental and Davao Occidental are placed under Alert Level 4 while those under Alert Level 3 include Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Siquijor, Davao City and Davao del Norte.

Areas under Alert Level 2 are Batangas, Quezon, Lucena City, Bohol, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Cebu, Davao de Oro, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental.

Per data from the Philippine National Police, 581 areas are under granular lockdown across the country, leading to 6,136 households or 22,024 individuals under lockdown. 

To date, health authorities have recorded 2.72 million coronavirus infections in the country, 68,832 of whom are still classified as active cases.

"People's lives and jobs and movement are affected by this. We need to give everyone involved a chance to understand it if we want them to follow these new guidelines," Velasco said. 

ALERT LEVEL SYSTEM COVID-19 PANDEMIC LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS
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