Metro Manila mayors lean toward recommending 15-day ECQ extension

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 8) — Metro Manila mayors are most likely to extend for another 15 days the enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, hinted the region’s top policy-making body.

All mayors in Metro Manila will come up on Saturday with a unanimous recommendation on whether to extend or lift the enhanced community quarantine over the region after May 15.

“Pero ang consensus ng marami sa amin...we would like to extend for another 15 days sa ECQ para magtuloytuloy na po yung flattening of the curve and para matapos na yung mass testing na ginagawa,” said Metro Manila Council chairperson and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez in an interview with CNN Philippines’ News Night.

[Translation: The consensus of most of us...we would like to extend for another 15 days the ECQ so the flattening of the curve will continue and the mass testing will also be done.]

For his part, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said their local government is not yet comfortable to go under general community quarantine despite dropping number of COVID-19 cases in the city.

“But on a personal level, I would still rather have a little more extension of our ECQ in San Juan, even though our numbers of patients are dropping. I would still rather be careful and leave the ECQ if we have zero positive patients a day,” he told CNN Philippines.

Earlier, Olivarez said the possibility of relaxing the lockdown rules in some Metro Manila cities while some cities remain under strict quarantine is not an option.

"Ang aming approach dito is we will do it as one, as National Capital Region. Kasi kung makikita mo ang cities ng Metro Manila is interconnected. Kung may ECQ at may GCQ, hindi rin po mase-serve ang purpose natin to control ang paglabas ng tao para maiwasan natin ang paglaki ng COVID [cases]," he told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: We will do it as one. The cities of Metro Manila are all interconnected. If some are on ECQ while some are on GCQ, the purpose of containing the spread of COVID-19 will be defeated.]

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso agreed with Olivarez’s sentiment.

“We must have one rule in Metro Manila, kasi intertwined ang aming mga community. Ibig sabihin, kapag palpak kami, papalpak din sila,” he said.

[Translation: We must have one rule in Metro Manila because all the communities are intertwined. The failure of one city is the failure of all.]

Some Cabinet members have raised the idea of localized shift to GCQ as some Metro Manila cities are showing improved health responses compared to the others.

RELATED: Roque says COVID-19 data points to shift to relaxed quarantine in some Metro Manila areas

Among the factors the local chief executives will consider for their recommendation is the flattening of the COVID-19 curve in Metro Manila — the region which has the most number of cases. The mayor said they will also look into the capacity of local and national government to conduct mass testing.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health experts have said the COVID-19 curve started flattening 10 to 14 days ago, however on Thursday, the country set a new record-high in single-day increase in COVID-19 infections.

As for testing, the country’s capacity is at 12,000, officials said. The DOH's target capacity is 30,000 tests per day by the end of May.

For Muntinlupa City, local health officials are recommending that quarantine status quo be maintained for more weeks as the city awaits at least 450 pending test results to paint a clear picture of the COVID-19 situation in their area. A local officer also said Muntinlupa resident have yet to be educated as to what GCQ entails.

"It's very hard to transition from ECQ to GCQ para mahanda ang mga tao natin. We want to ensure na before we [transition] to GCQ na-inform po lahat ng tao,” Muntinlupa Public Information chief Tez Navarro said.

Meanwhile, the mayors of Manila and Marikina have raised the impact of another extended ECQ to the local economy.

Moreno said COVID-19’s threat to lives and livelihood are intertwined and the government’s next decision should put a premium on both.

“We cannot separate ‘yung usaping buhay at usaping kabuhayan... Kaya kailangan lang balansehin natin kasi at the end of the day, for the government to function ay kailangang may pera ang gobyerno at ang pera ng gobyerno ay nanggagaling sa buwis,” he said.

[Translation: We cannot separate lives from livelihood. It’s a balancing act because the government needs tax collections to function.]

Meanwhile, Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro believes the ECQ should be lifted gradually and selectively depending on the presence of community transmission. He said strict restrictions in the manufacturing and service industry businesses must be lifted come May 15.

“Naniniwala ako na kailangan na rin natin mag-lift ng quarantine sa ibang bahagi ng sektor,” he said.

Moreno also questioned how social distancing can be properly enforced once jeepney drivers are allowed to ply the roads if the region shifts to GCQ. He said this will be challenging as the drivers would likely want to maximize trips by taking in more passengers because they have been deprived of work for almost two months.

“Kung ili-lift yung ECQ, so gagamit na sila ng mga pampublikong sasakyan, paano natin mapipigilan ang mga driver na huwag magpuno ng sasakyan, eh two months silang walang hanapbuhay. So they will take opportunity or chance na mapuno ang jeep, so paano natin sila idi-distansiya?” he asked.

Under the “new normal” in GCQ areas, passengers in mass transport are dramatically reduced. From the usual 22 passengers in a jeepney, only 10 people per trip will be allowed.

After their meeting, the Metro Manila Council — composed of 17 mayors in Metro Manila and MMDA officials — are expected to submit their recommendation to the Inter-Agency Task Force. The national government's COVID-19 task force will then issue their recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte, who will have the final say on the fate of Metro Manila post-May 15.

Duterte's spokesman said the decision on the ECQ will be released before May 15 to allow LGUs and residents to transition.

Of the 10,463 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, more than 6,000 were recorded in Metro Manila — making it the epicenter of the coronavirus disease in the Philippines.

The ECQ in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas was extended until May 15, while the rest of the country was placed under GCQ.