AS the government shifts its COVID-19 control strategies from community quarantines to focus on granular lockdowns, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Wednesday night tasked Cabinet members to play “big brothers” or “big sisters” to local government units in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) to ensure the successful implementation of the new approach.
The IATF, though Resolution No. 62, said Cabinet members will oversee the implementation and compliance of LGUs to quarantine guidelines, monitor the status of the area’s healthcare system, and ensure a smoother communication between the national and local government.
Playing mentor to local jurisdictions are the following: Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles in Quezon City, Education Secretary Leonor Briones and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in Pasig City, Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Danilo Lim in Pateros, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Commission on Higher Education chairman Prospero De Vera III in Marikina and Malabon cities.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and testing czar Vivencio Dizon in Taguig City, Information Secretary Gregorio Honasan II and Anti-Red Tape Authority director general Jeremiah Belgica in Manila, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez in Mandaluyong City, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in Makati City, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua in San Juan City.
Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade in Muntinlupa City, National task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. in Parañaque City, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar in Las Piñas City, presidential spokesman Harry Roque in Pasay City; Agriculture Secretary William Dar in Caloocan City, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado in Navotas City.
Science Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña in Valenzuela City, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in Bulacan; Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in Cavite; Communications Secretary Martin Andanar in Laguna, and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi in Rizal.
Roque and Galvez both said the Cabinet members’ assignments were based on their areas of residences.
Galvez said the Cabinet chiefs will monitor and support the LGUs in their implementation of government measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Roque said the IATF has already recommended to President Duterte the different classifications for areas in the country that are under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ until August 15. He said the recommended classification will be from August 16 to 30.
The President will make an announcement on Monday, according to Roque, and this will also include the new quarantine levels for Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan, which are under MECQ until August 18.
Asked about the possible extension of the MECQ in the five areas, Roque reiterated that it is “unlikely” unless Congress provides funding for cash aid to poor families that will be adversely hit by the prolonged lockdown.
Roque said that while under MECQ, the government will ramp up public testing, improve contact tracing approaches, and improve health capacities of localities.
He said that with the expected opening and operations of the expanded isolation and intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the East Avenue Medical Center by August 17, and the Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Quezon Institute before the end of the month, the country – particularly Metro Manila – will be ready in case there is a new surge in positive cases.
Under Resolution 62, the IATF also approved the resumption of the Qualifying Assessment for Foreign Medical Professionals scheduled on September 19, provided that they will only be conducted in areas under GCQ or MGCQ, and that they comply with health safety protocols.
The IATF also agreed to the creation of a local rice task force, to be led by the LGUs and supervised by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that would ensure the proper implementation of the rice programs and eventually ensure sufficient supply in the country.
A memorandum circular will be issued by the DA and DILG which would allow the two offices to “give guidance and advisory to the local government units to establish and organize the LGU-led local rice task force for the proper implementation of and monitoring of the rice program.”