9K cops deployed, 1K checkpoints ready

    File photo: Lockdown in Barangay 351 Zone 35 in Manila.

    ‘NCR Plus’ lockdown starts

    THE PNP has deployed thousands of policemen to quarantine control points or checkpoints in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces in preparation for the weeklong enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that starts today.

    Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Rizal, collectively known as “NCR Plus,” were placed under stricter quarantine rules in government’s bid to control the surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

    President Duterte on Saturday ordered residents of NCR Plus to stop going out of their homes except for essential trips.

    The Department of Health yesterday reported 9,475 new cases. This is the third straight day that the country ticked more than 9,000 cases in one day. Last Friday, the count was at 9,838 – the highest number of infections in a day since the pandemic hit the country last year. On Saturday, the figure was at 9,595 new cases.

    In a press briefing yesterday, Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said 9,356 policemen have been deployed to ensure the strict implementation of ECQ guidelines in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna.

    Binag said 7,800 of the police will be assigned in Metro Manila, while the rest will be deployed to Central Luzon and the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon).

    They will do foot and mobile patrol in places of convergence like markets and grocery stores to ensure enforcement of minimum health standard protocols.

    Binag said the police personnel will also man the 1,106 checkpoints that have been put up to implement strict border security and make sure that only authorized persons are allowed to leave their homes. Of the numbers, 929 will be established in the NCR, 162 in Central Luzon and 15 in the Calabarzon.

    Binag said policemen will either send people who violate quarantine protocols back to their homes, bring them to gymnasiums where they were will be lectured about the need to follow protocols, or given tickets for violating city ordinances. Violators will not be arrested except when they become hostile or attempt to physically harm the policemen.

    Binag said essential workers who are allowed to leave their homes would be asked to present their identification card or certificate of employment before they will be allowed to cross the control points.

    DILG officer-in-charge Bernardo Florece directed policemen to coordinate with local government units (LGUs) and barangay officials in the enforcement of the ECQ down to the barangay level.

    Florece said the Armed Forces will augment the PNP in the enforcement of the ECQ, including the curfew hours.

    Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat yesterday said the operation of “staycation” accommodations such as hotels, resorts, apartment hotels, motels and other such establishments have been “effectively suspended” within the NCR Plus bubble.

    Puyat said guests who are already billeted in the establishments by midnight last night may continue to stay for the duration of their original booking. However, no new bookings will be allowed for the week.

    Christine Ibarreta, president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), assured tourism officials that guests with reservations within the ECQ period will be allowed to rebook without penalty provided they booked directly with the hotels.

    Meanwhile, Manila Barangay Bureau Director Romeo Bagay said barangay chairmen in the city’s 896 barangays will one quarantine pass per family that would allow the holder to go out during their designated schedules, which will be determined based on the control numbers of the quarantine passes.

    Holders of odd numbered-passes will be allowed to go on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as on Easter Sunday from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m.

    On the other hand, those whose passes end in even numbers can go out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as on Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m.

    The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday offered no contest to the decision to place Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces under ECQ and instead said it is already prepared to hold Holy Week observances online.

    In an interview, CBCP Public Affairs Committee Executive Secretary Fr Jerome Secillano said they are ready to comply with the IATF decision to ban all forms of religious gatherings in areas under ECQ.

    This was seconded by Manila Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo, who said they are ready to comply with the ECQ order. “We adapt to the new situation. This situation is unforeseen,” said Pabillo in a separate interview.

    Transportation assistant secretary Mark Steven Pastor said public transportation in the road, rail, maritime and aviation sectors will continue but only up to 30 to 50 percent capacity.

    Pastor said buses, UV express vans, jeepneys, shuttle services, tricycles, taxis and transport network vehicle services (TNVS) are allowed to operate at 50 percent maximum capacity, or a one seat reduction from the current 75 percent capacity.

    Motorcycle taxis such as Angkas, Joyride and Move are also allowed to operate provided that they have transparent barriers separating the rider from the passenger.

    Pastor said provincial buses are allowed to enter the NCR Plus bubble with their passengers should only be APORs and it should only be point to point trip.

    For railway sector, Timothy John Batan said passenger capacity for the Metro Rail Transit line 3, Light Rail Transit line 1 and LRT-2 and Philippine National Railways (PNR) will still be 30 percent. For maritime transport, they are allowed at 50 percent capacity.

    The Supreme Court has extended the deadline for the filing of pleadings and other court submissions in courts in the NCR Plus bubble areas.

    Acting Chief Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe said lawyers and litigants may still file their pleadings and court submissions on urgent matters during the March 29 to 31 period, “provided that they first communicate with the proper court through its hotline or email address to confirm that the matter being raised is indeed urgent.”

    Court actions which are not urgent such as but not limited to promulgation of judgments in civil cases and solemnization of marriages scheduled from March 29 to 31 are suspended and shall be rescheduled. – With Gerard Naval and Ashzel Hachero