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Palace: 2-week ECQ in NCR dependent on cash aid

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The re-imposition of a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila will depend on the availability of government funds that can be used as cash aid for poor families, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) will discuss the proposal of Metro Manila mayors to revert the capital region to ECQ amid the threat of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

“If there will be a decision to declare ECQ pursuant to the request of the mayors, it will be contingent on the cash aid that can be given by the government,” he said in a televised briefing.

Pressed by reporters, the Palace official admitted he cannot say yet whether the Department of Budget and Management has allocated funds for a possible reimposition of ECQ in Metro Manila, which accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s GDP.

Roque added that the IATF has acknowledged that stricter lockdowns will leave millions of Filipinos jobless.

“We know that the COVID-19 Delta variant is highly contagious, but the majority of the IATF members are firm on their stance that we should let our countrymen work especially if we are unsure if we can afford to give cash aid,” he said.

“The truth is, I do not know if we still have enough funds for large-scale lockdowns. But if we really need it, we will look for it,” Roque added.

However, he assured the public that the IATF — considered as the government’s highest policy-making body on pandemic response — will consider the suggestion of reimposing ECQ in the capital region.

Benhur Abalos, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, said that Metro Manila mayors were prepared to put the capital region under ECQ for two weeks if the national government has available cash aid for the poor.

Should the IATF impose such, Abalos added metro mayors will request the pandemic task force to provide at least four million doses of anti-coronavirus vaccines in the region which will be administered during the said period.

For the meantime, he said the local chief executives will ask the pandemic task force to reimpose strict quarantine measures in Metro Manila to arrest the spread of COVID-19.

Since 23 July, the capital region has been under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions — a lockdown classification more relaxed than ECQ. President Rodrigo Duterte extended such classification in Metro Manila until 15 August.

Meanwhile, about one million poor Filipinos residing in areas under ECQ will receive up to P4,000-worth cash aid or compensation for loss of livelihoods during the lockdown.

Iloilo province and Iloilo City, as well as Cagayan de Oro City and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental, have been placed under the strictest lockdown classification from 16 July until 15 August amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.

“The President has approved the proposal to grant P1,000 financial assistance to poor individuals in ECQ areas. The amount won’t exceed P4,000 per family,” Roque said.

He added that the government will spend P1 billion for financial assistance in the said areas, as he noted that concerned local government units have downloaded the funds from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

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