Extend, lift or modify Metro Manila ECQ? Mayors leave it to IATF

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) — After discussions that lasted more than four hours on Saturday, all the 17 mayors of Metro Manila agreed to make no specific recommendation on whether to lift or extend the enhanced community quarantine in the capital region.

"Hindi tayo nagdecide nang ganoon eh. Nagkaisa ang lahat na kahit ano ang maging decision ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force), we will follow," Metropolitan Manila Development Authority General Manager Jojo Garcia told CNN Philippines after their online meeting.

[Translation: We did not decide on that. We agreed that whatever the decision of the IATF would be, we will follow.]

Garcia said the mayors agreed that there should be one policy for Metro Manila. He said relaxing the lockdown rules only in some Metro Manila cities while other neighboring cities remain under strict quarantine is not an option, since that system will be difficult to implement due to the contiguous communities' porous borders.

"Ang gusto lang nila we will decide as one. Meaning kung i-GCQ mo, buong Metro Manila, kung i-ECQ mo, buong Metro Manila," he said.

[Translation: They just wanted to decide as one. If you choose GCQ or ECQ, it should be for the entire Metro Manila.]

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is the policy-making body in the government's fight against the coronavirus disease. The Metro Manila Council, composed of the mayors and the MMDA, was expected to come up with a proposal on easing or maintaining strict quarantine measures amid a continued rise in cases of the coronavirus disease.

Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez, Metro Manila Council Chairperson, said on Friday that the mayors were keen on recommending to the task force a 15-day extension of the ECQ, which is set to end on May 15.

Garcia said the mayors will instead present to the task force what will happen under three possible scenarios, and let the body decide on which to choose: extend the ECQ for two weeks, place Metro Manila under a more relaxed general community quarantine, or opt for a modified one which could be a mix of both.

"Pag sinabi mong modified, naka-GCQ ka. GCQ talaga yun wala tayong term na modified e. Pero... kapag may mga barangay na maraming [COVID-19] cases, pwede mong i-ECQ ang barangay," Garcia said in an online briefing after the meeting.

[Translation: "When you say modified, you are under GCQ. That's really GCQ because there's no modified term. But when a barangay has many COVID-19 cases, it can be placed under ECQ.]

He further explained that under a modified setup, local authorities "with the help of the Health Department" would decide on placing restrictions on a barangay as needed.

Garcia said the mayors are aware that strict stay-at home orders and the shutdown of many businesses could result in more job losses if the ECQ continues. Most of the country is under GCQ, where more businesses and mass transport are allowed to operate as long as they follow social distancing rules.

Earlier, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the mayors' pitch will be a "big factor" in the final recommendation the task force will submit to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte will have the final say on whether to extend or ease the quarantine measures placed on Metro Manila and several provinces beyond May 15. He first placed Metro Manila under community quarantine on March 15, but the ECQ was expanded the next day to cover the entire Luzon region, until April 12.

The Luzon lockdown was then extended until April 30. Metro Manila and several "high-risk" provinces have remained under tight ECQ.

Metro Manila has the most number of COVID-19 cases in the country at 6,916. This is 65 percent of the total infections, which rose to 10,610 on Saturday.