Several LGUs appeal to continue enhanced community quarantine in their areas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 1) – The local governments of Zamboanga City, La Union province, and towns in Albay province appealed to the national government on Friday to continue the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine in their areas due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco cited the projections of Zamboanga City Medical Center epidemiologists that there will be a spike of COVID-19 cases in their city from May 8-11.

She also appealed for mass testing in Zamboanga City as an outbreak of the disease emerged in the city’s reformatory center, resulting in two deaths and possible increase in infections.

“Local chief executives that must be on top of the situation really need the expert advice and data from our medical professionals,” said Climaco.

The mayor mentioned there are 334 suspected patients in the city, with 11 confirmed cases.

She also emphasized that Zamboanga City is the only place with a tertiary hospital, which caters to the needs of communities in Zamboanga Peninsula and nearby provinces Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Climaco added their city is a center of transshipment and passenger arrivals, raising the need for arriving persons in the city to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine and mass testing.

She also appealed to the national government to establish a COVID-19 testing laboratory in the city that will also serve nearby provinces in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao regions.

“We still do not have that and I am expecting Sec. (Carlito) Galvez to come over in the City of Zamboanga to expedite the facility because we are undergoing evaluation,” Climaco said.

The Zamboanga City chief executive said they partnered with private hospitals in the country for the medical care of COVID-19 patients in the city and for providing them testing capacity similar to Metro Manila.

She lamented the COVID-19 test results coming from Metro Manila take three to four days to reach Zamboanga City.

Climaco said they are expecting today a response from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on their recommendation to continue the ECQ in Zamboanga City.

La Union Governor Pacoy Ortega also appealed to the IATF-EID to extend the ECQ in their province.

Even as he awaits for IATF-EID response, Ortega placed La Union under general community quarantine (GCQ) effective today in compliance with the national government’s directive.

Town mayors in Albay province, led by Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal and Daraga Mayor Victor Perete, made similar appeals.

Albay provincial board member Raul Rosal expressed disappointment over the provincial government’s failure to pass a resolution requesting the IATF-EID to place the whole province under ECQ.

“We had a special session requested by all board members to pass a resolution requesting IATF-EID to place the entire province of Albay under ECQ until May 15," Rosal stated in his social media account. "Then when I moved for its approval, nobody seconded my motion."

Albay second district Rep. Joey Salceda believes the province is not yet ready for GCQ because the country has not yet met its minimum health standards in solving the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For example in the case of Albay, we're 1.3 million. Now they're allowed to go out and essentially once they go home we have 140,000 senior citizens,” said Salceda.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he was surprised with the huge number of requests from LGUs to extend the ECQ in their areas of jurisdiction.

Under the guidelines released Thursday by the IATF-EID, the national government extended the ECQ in Metro Manila, Central Luzon (except Aurora), and CALABARZON regions up to May 15.

Also covered by the ECQ extension are Pangasinan province, Benguet province (including Baguio City), Iloilo province (including Iloilo City), Cebu province (including Cebu City), Davao City, and Bacolod City.

Roque reminded that rules for extending ECQ in LGUs should be concurred by the IATF-EID.

He explained that provincial governors can declare ECQ in their municipalities and component cities, with the concurrence of their local IATF-EID.

Wala pong probinsya na pwedeng mag-ECQ or GCQ para sa buong probinsya na wala pong abiso ang IATF,” said Roque.

[Translation: No provincial government can impose ECQ or GCQ in their whole province without the advice of the IATF.]

Roque added that mayors of highly urbanized cities can impose ECQ in their barangays, as approved by their local IATF-EID.

Meanwhile, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba said the province will implement a gradual re-opening of businesses under the GCQ set-up.

Mamba mentioned that businesses in the province must start their operations by just ten percent. He said businesses can slowly increase their working capacity, but reminded them to not exceed the 50% minimum standard set by the national government in business operations in GCQ areas.

“We will follow the guidelines from the government," he said. "Although we have to do it very gradually, cautiously."

The governor also urged businessmen in the province to submit their plans on how they will facilitate mass testing of their employees before reporting for work.

Cagayan Province broke its three-week streak of no confirmed COVID-19 cases this week, as three new infections were recorded bringing the infected toll in the province to 17.

Mamba said two of the three new cases in the province are employees of the Cagayan Valley Medical Center.

“We are taking extra precautions because we are afraid of the virus,” said Mamba.

The provincial capital, Tuguegarao City, was placed under ECQ for a week to prepare for its transition into GCQ.

Tuguegarao Mayor Jefferson Soriano said despite the city still being under ECQ, they will allow the operation of tricycles and the re-opening of establishments starting today.

“Our guideline is, except for the new establishment that will open, our area will still be under ECQ but the operation of tricycles is also an exception,” said Soriano.

Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Singson, Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap, and Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo also issued their respective provincial executive orders to place their provinces under GCQ starting today.