INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año on Thursday said there is no need for additional restrictions for people under the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re already on a lockdown. Actually, everybody should not go out of their homes unless needed,” Año said in a phone interview.
Under the guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, only one representative per household is allowed to go out to buy food, medicines and other important needs.
The guidelines, however, allow employees from essential sectors to continue reporting for work, especially health workers and people involved in food production.
Año appealed to the public anew to strictly comply with quarantine rules, as expressed disappointment over continuously receiving reports about unauthorized persons who go out of their homes for non-essential purposes.
“The problem is some are stubborn, they are still going out. The duration of this lockdown depends on the number of stubborn Filipinos. The more number of stubborn persons, the longer this will drag on,” Año said.
President Duterte initially placed Metro Manila under community quarantine from March 15 to April 14. He upgraded it a day later, placing the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine effective midnight of March 17 until April 12 as a severe preventive approach to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“This should be a personal duty of everyone as Filipino citizens,” said Año, referring to the compliance to quarantine rules.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said 8,993 persons have been accosted for violation of the curfew hours in Metro Manila since March 19.
“All have been recorded in the books of barangays,” said Banac. He said the number included minors who were turned over to the care of the local social welfare and development.
Thousands of policemen and soldiers have been deployed to man quarantine control points or checkpoints to ensure the movement of people are limited during the quarantine period.
Año said some local government units in Visayas and Mindanao, the latest Cebu, have also placed their areas under ECQ or lockdown.
He said there is still no need for the national government to issue an order to impose a lockdown in entire Visayas and Mindanao, noting the small number of COVID-19 cases in the two regions.
Año said the DILG is “harmonizing” the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine with local chief executives.
“At this time, we want the LGU to follow in harmony with the IATF national guidelines. Some (local chief executives) are overacting because of their instinct to protect their own constituents. But they are too much, they’re contradicting the (IATF) guidelines,” said Año.
Earlier reports had it that some local officials have prevented the passage of delivery trucks in their areas, contrary to the IAFT guidelines which said the movement of such vehicles should be unhampered to ensure the flow of food and other essential items.
“But when you call them, they’re following. They’re changing their EO (executive orders). At this time, we just want to get their attention and get their support, and change their EOs… We had some issues with some governors, mayors but when we called them, they changed their EOs and following (the IATF guidelines) so I’m happy,” said Año.
Año said he does not want to stretch DILG personnel for the conduct of investigation against these local government officials “but if they really won’t follow, we are going to impose preventive suspensions against them.”
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) slammed individuals posing as agency personnel and offering transportation assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in exchange for huge amounts.
In an advisory, OWWA condemned unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the “Hatid-Sundo ng OWWA” program to dupe OFWs.
“OWWA vehemently condemns any form of exploitation targeting OFWs,” OWWA said, adding the government is ready to hold accountable those that are engaged in activities preying on OFWs.
“Anybody, who will be proven as using the name of OWWA to dupe others, will be held liable and answerable to justice,” it stressed.
The advisory was issued after OWWA received reports that there are individuals pretending to be OWWA personnel and are offering transportation services to OFWs in exchange for exorbitant fees.
OWWA stressed that the transportation assistance of the agency is free for all OFWs headed to and from airport terminals. – With Gerard Naval