Defense chief orders deployment of more troops to enforce strict quarantine measures

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 19) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines is deploying more troops to implement strict quarantine measures, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Sunday.

Lorenzana, who also heads the national task force against COVID-19, said he has directed AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Felimon Santos to help the police enforce lockdown protocols by sending more personnel to Metro Manila and other areas with high COVID-19 incidence.

“These sights do not inspire confidence that we will achieve our objective by the end of this month,” laments the defense chief, referring to the rampant violation of the stay-at-home order:

In a televised address on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned the possibility of the military and police “taking over” should the public continue to violate quarantine protocols.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said there is nothing to be alarmed about the AFP preparing and deploying troops “when it becomes necessary.”

According to Arevalo, several local government units in Metro Manila have already sought assistance from the military in containing COVID-19.

“What we should all be alarmed about instead is the fact that a lot of people are blatantly violating the law and disobeying the rules and health protocols which must be strictly enforced, otherwise people die,” he said.

Talks on lockdown extension

Asked on his stance on the extension of the Luzon-wide lockdown, Lorenzana said the trend of coronavirus cases in the days leading to April 30 should be “the final determinant.”

“That’s why these last 11 days of April are crucial in the decision-making process,” he said. "We should see a tapering off or downward trend to warrant partial lifting, or continue with the lockdown if the trend continues to go up."

Senator Bong Go confirmed in a DZBB interview on Sunday that the President will be meeting with experts on Monday to assess if there is a need to extend, modify, or ease lockdown measures.

He also backed the order for stricter implementation of existing guidelines, saying the coronavirus developments in the coming days will be critical in deciding the next course of action.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it may not be advisable to wait “until the entire country reaches a zero level of human transmission” before lockdown is lifted.

“By then we may have hit the tipping point where it would be extremely difficult to recover from the economic and social devastation,” he said. “We have to re-start somewhere sometime, taking all necessary measures to prevent a resurgence, and imploring the aid of divine providence to get us through.”

Guevarra, however, added that he will support whatever the inter-agency task force decides on Monday.

The President had earlier ordered the extension of the Luzon lockdown until April 30, as the country continues to grapple with the continuous spread of the viral disease. As of April19, the health department has recorded 6,259 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 409 deaths and 572 recoveries.