and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
MORE policemen and barangay officials will be deployed to public markets to ensure social distancing is observed among market-goers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield, said on Sunday.
Eleazar, PNP deputy chief for operations, said the PNP has received reports about large numbers of persons roaming public markets and not observing social distancing guidelines.
Eleazar said policemen, barangay officials and even soldiers are now mandated to be deployed inside public markets to ensure social distancing among market goers. Also, he said they will control the number of people going inside the markets.
“Our chief PNP, Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, has already instructed local police commanders across the country to implement measures that would limit the number of people in the public markets, specifically on the matter concerning the strict observance of the social distancing rule,” he said.
Eleazar said limited entry and exit points will be enforced in markets which will be manned by policemen, soldiers and other force multipliers such as barangay tanod (watchmen) to limit the number of people entering the public market.
Monitoring teams composed of policemen or soldiers and augmented by barangay officials and barangay tanod watchmen will go around public markets to ensure that social distancing is strictly observed, he also said.
Eleazar said while policemen have successfully implemented social distancing measures in most public markets, there are still some markets in Metro Manila and nearby areas where people have to be reminded about the rule.
He added that Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has “tasked barangay officials to assist in this effort to make sure that there would be no more violation of the Enhanced Quarantine guidelines on social distancing.”
Meanwhile, the Quezon City government stopped retail operations in seven public markets in Balintawak – the Cloverleaf, North Diversion, Riverview I, Riverview II, Pilson’s, MC, and Edsan Bagsakan.
City Mayor Joy Belmonte said only wholesale operations of those markets will be allowed to continue.
Belmonte said the decision was reached on Saturday following a meeting between Quezon City government officials and the market owners. She noted more than half of market-goers in these markets come from neighboring cities.
Assistant City Administrator for Operations Alberto Kimpo said retail shoppers will be barred from entering portions of Samson Road and EDSA in front of the Balintawak markets. Any stall will be caught engaging in retail sales will be closed.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government is looking at the deployment of policemen and soldiers to some public markets to help enforce physical distancing and one entry-one exit policies as crowd control strategies.
Nograles, concurrent spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said the Department of Interior and Local Government will coordinate with local government officials on the implementation of the measures.
He said DILG will also be working with local government units in identifying the public markets that should remain open and those that will have limited operations.
The decision was reached during a virtual meeting of the Cabinet on Saturday following the reopening of the Balintawak Market in Quezon City.
Nograles said that aside from limiting the Balintawak Market’s operations to wholesale, the Quezon City government is also implementing a QC Fresh Market on Wheels program to accommodate affected retail vendors.
In other cities and provinces, market hours and days had been allotted for each barangay to limit the entry of people in public markets.
Nograles said the IATF has approved and adopted the National Security Council recommendation to activate the Food Security subgroup under the Technical Group of Resource and Logistics Management of the National Task Force to “ensure food and water security, including shelter and energy, of the people.”
The Technical Group of Resource and Logistics Management is chaired by the Department of Agriculture, with the Department of Trade and Industry, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Budget and Management, as members.
The Technical Group is tasked to monitor and provide the task force with updates on the status of food production and manufacturing in the country and ensure that the 18 million low-income households targeted under the social amelioration program have access to food and basic services.
Nograles said local government officials should allow Filipino migrant workers who have finished their 14-day quarantine to disembark, transit and return to their home provinces.
“Ang daming protocol po na sinusundan para po makabalik sila sa bansa. Kaya pauwiin niyo na po sila. Hindi po sila banta sa kalusugan ng inyong mga bayan. (They have undergone through so many protocols just to return to the Philippines, so let them go home. They are not a threat to your community’s health)” he said.
He said the migrant workers have been issued certificates as proof that they have finished their quarantine before they are allowed to travel back to the country.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) earlier said it would look for ways to help some 5,000 overseas Filipino workers who are currently stranded in Manila and help bring them to their home provinces, while the Department of Foreign Affairs said more than 11,000 Filipinos have already returned to the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nograles said amid the extension of the Luzon lockdown, business process outsourcing (BPO) firms are allowed to install additional and necessary work-from-home equipment at any time during the ECQ duration, while export-oriented establishments are permitted to “enhance their operations by deploying their workers under on-site or near-site accommodation arrangements, or by providing point-to-point shuttle services.”
He reminded the firms about their strict observance of social distancing measures and the routine disinfection of facilities and vehicles.
He said local government units have been directed to allow the movement of workers and equipment of BPO and export-oriented businesses.