Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Benhur Abalos on Sunday said localized lockdown will be implemented by Metro Manila mayors once President Rodrigo Duterte finally orders a nationwide modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
In a radio interview, Abalos said that as the head of the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in the National Capital Region (NCR), mayors will secure permission from him if cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will increase with the easing of restrictions in their respective areas.
“All of the Metro Manila mayors are ready in case the President finally decides to declare an MGCQ nationwide,” Abalos said.
Abalos noted that based on the data from the Department of Health (DoH), Covid-cases in the NCR are in the downtrend.
“Our situation in Metro Manila has improved. We were able to decrease the number of Covid cases. Mayors were able to control the spread of the virus,” he added.
According to Abalos, hospital capacities are also low and can accommodate more patients in case there will be sudden increase in the Covid cases under the MGCQ status.
“What is important is to ensure that the local government units (LGU) are closely monitoring the situation in their respective areas. Under the MGCQ, a mayor has the authority to order a lockdown of a street, of a barangay, or even the entire city, regardless how big it is. If he wants to lockdown half or more than half of the city, it is up to him,” he explained.
Abalos added that as the head of the regional IATF, mayors will submit a letter to him to request for a localized lockdown.
According to Abalos, he will act on the letter for localized lockdown in just one day.
“We will observe the procedure, we will get the comment of the committee members, particularly the Department of Health on this,” he said.
At the same time, Abalos maintained that the strict implementation of the health protocol is important to ensure that Covid cases will not increase when MGCQ is implemented.
“Our personal discipline is still the key here. Wear mask, face shield, wash your hands using soap or disinfect with alcohol,” he added.
Abalos stressed that the MMDA will strictly implement the IATF guidelines, particularly on mass gathering.
“We will see to it to arrest those who are violating the IATF rules. While we want to open the economy, we still need to comply with the health protocols,” he said.
Earlier, the Metro Manila Council (MMC) voted to allow the implementation of MGCQ in the NCR, with nine mayors favoring the easing of the restriction, while eight were against it.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday is expected to decide on the recommendation of economic managers after they called for the implementation of MGCQ in the entire country.
Meanwhile, an expert from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) supported the possible declaration of MGCQ nationwide.
In another radio interview, Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, Pediatric Disease Specialist, said that “sooner or later,” Metro Manila needs to relax the community quarantine in view of the economic consideration.
“Our mind set has always been open or close, when in fact maybe we should be moving forward to another dimension of the question which is if has been decided to open the economy, what needs to be done since sooner or later we need to relax the restrictions. We know that are economy is suffering,” Ong-Lim said.
Duterte is expected to announce today (Monday) his decision whether to finally implement the MGCQ status nationwide following calls from the economic managers and the favorable decision of the Metro Manila mayors.
“As health professionals, while we want to protect the health dimension, we still need to consider that the economy needs to reopen. What should be done now is to ensure everybody will be protected against the virus,” Ong-Lim added.
Preparation is key
At the same time, Ong-Lim supported the statement of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire who said that LGU should prepare regardless of the community quarantine status.
“We should protect ourselves so that we will not contract the virus by implementing the minimum health standard.
We should wear mask, face shield and observe physical distancing in any community setting,” she noted.
Ong-Lim said that public transportation and establishments should follow the health protocols once MGCQ is observed.
“The more critical thing is when the public are using the public transports, it is important that strict compliance to minimum health standards is implemented and establishments are well ventilated,” she explained.
Ong-Lim acknowledged that placing Metro Manila under MGCQ will not be an easy decision for the President.
“I don’t envy the decision makers, it’s a very difficult choice to make,” she said.