Año: Metro Manila mayors recommendation a 'big factor' in deciding on quarantine policy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 9) —The decision of Metro Manila mayors on the scheduled easing of restrictions will have weight on the recommendation of the task force dealing with the coronavirus and the final decision of President Rodrigo Duterte, a Cabinet official said on Saturday.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told CNN Philippines in an interview, "Malaking factor ang ating local government units, ang ating local chief executives dahil sila yung mag iimplement, kanilang responsibility din yan. So napakalaking factor yung anuman yung kanilang posisyon at yun naman ay sisiguraduhin natin ay i-haharmoninze naman natin sa parameters na nai-set ng ating IATF."

[Translation: The local government units, the local chie executives are a big factor because they wll be the ones implementing (the rules), that's their responsibility. So whatever their position may be, it's a very big factor and we will make sure to harmonize these with the parameters to be set by the IATF.]

Metro Manila mayors are scheduled to meet Saturday afternoon to come up with a common stand on whether or not to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the region after May 15.

Año said the inter-agency task force will consider the mayors' recommendation for discussion and evaluation on Monday, ahead of the final recommendation to the President.

"Tinitignan din natin yung pag punta sa tinatawag natin na localized area ECQ kung saan yung isang siyudad pupwuwede mong hindi ilagay sa buong ECQ kundi yung mga areas lang na tinatawag nating critical areas or critical zones, containment zones, buffer zones. Yun yung tinitignan natin. Parang kumbaga surgical intervention na yung ginagawa natin, yung kung saan yung affected area, liliitan natin yung pag ECQ doon," he said.

[Translation: We are looking at heading toward what we call a localized area ECQ where an area may not be included in the ECQ, except for areas which are called critical areas or critical zones, containment zones; buffer zones. That's what we're looking at. This would be like a surgical invtervention, where the affected areas, the ECQ areas would be made smaller.]

In a separate Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, "Wala pang napapag-agreehan, wala pa yung final recommendation ng IATF sa Presidente para sa anong mangyayari sa May 16. Pero uulitin ko lang kung anong sinabi ni Kalihim Año, bagama't maraming lugar siguro sa Metro Manila ay magiging GCQ na, siyempre yung matataas na kaso po hindi yan magiging GCQ."

[Translation: Nothing has been agreed upon, there is no final recommendation from the IATF to the President on what will happen on May 16. But I will repeat what Secretary Año said, while there may be many places in Metro Manila that will be under GCQ, those places with a high number of cases will not be put in GCQ.]

Roque said he expects the IATF to submit its recommendations after the meeting on Monday.

A number of Metro Manila mayors said they lean towards extending for another 15 days the ECQ as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.

They said Metro Manila should have one quarantine policy after May 15.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ News Night on Friday, Metro Manila Council Chairperson and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said most mayors want to extend the ECQ. The council is the region’s policy-making body.

He said a selective implementation of strict quarantine rules is not an option.

QC looking at GCQ transition period

Meanwhile, the Quezon City government is proposing a transition period to a general community quarantine should the current strict lockdown lapse on May 15.

"If the QC local government were to have its way, it plans to implement [a] transition period to GCQ (general community quarantine) until May 31. This will allow business establishments to adapt to localized guidelines currently being developed in anticipation of a 'new normal' setting due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic," the city administration said in a statement Friday night.

In the statement, the city govrnment acknowledged that the final decision rests with the inter-agency task force.

Mayor Joy Belmonte said the transition period would boost the city's economy and at the same time protect the health of local residents and workers while preventing the further spread of the highly contagious virus.

Under the planned guidelines, business establishments are required to report their production capacities and commensurate workforce requirements, as well a check on the health of workers before being allowed back to work among other safety measures.

Assistant City Administrator for Operations Alberto Kimpo said those who would not follow the guidelines would be penalized.

Larger business establishments, meanwhile, are encouraged to have their staff tested and to have quarantine facilities ready for them, as well as implement mandatory body temperature checks at all entry points, and have dividers "installed between work stations."

No 24-hour businesses will also be allowed so that regular dinsinfection procedures on work areas can be done.

There is also the option to "re-implement ECQ in Barangays or portions thereof that are found to continue having high COVID infection rates, subject to the approval of the IATF-NCR," said Kimpo.