THE “enhanced community quarantine” declared by President Duterte on Monday is a medical term equivalent to the public’s perception of a total lockdown, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said yesterday.
Duterte placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which has already infected 187 and claimed the lives of 14.
The enhanced quarantine took effect midnight of Tuesday and will be in effect until Easter Sunday, April 12.
“Ito ay Luzon-wide, pati kasama rin ‘yung island ng Catanduanes, Masbate, Marinduque, Romblon at Palawan. So total lockdown talaga (This is Luzon-wide, including the islands of Catanduanes, Masbate, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan. So it’s really a total lockdown),” Año said in an interview.
“Mahirap kasi intindihin yung enhanced community quarantine, medical term. So para maintindihan ng mga tao, total lockdown. (It’s difficult to understand what enhanced community quarantine is because it’s a medical term. But in layman’s term, so the people will understand, it’s a total lockdown,” Año added.
The DILG chief reiterated that under this setting, households are required to stay at home for 30 days, or the duration of the quarantine.
Año also said government security forces are no longer concentrated in checkpoints that were put up at the border of the National Capital Region, but will be deployed to strategic areas.
“Mas marami ‘yung mag-mobile or roving patrol at kasama na rin natin ‘yung mga LGUs (local government units) lalo na ‘yung mga barangays sa pagpapatupad ng home quarantine. (They will be positioned in strategic areas. There will be more mobile or roving patrols. They will be accompanied by people from the LGUs, especially the barangays, in the implementation of home quarantine),” he said.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said at least 773 quarantine control stations have been put up throughout Luzon. These are manned by about 4,373 policemen, supported by personnel from the Armed Forces and the Philippine Coast Guard.
“Major adjustments will be made by the concerned Police Regional Offices to cope with the contingency and accomplish the objective to limit movement of people and human traffic to win over this pandemic,” Gamboa said.
“We reiterate our call to our countrymen in provinces and cities in Luzon to please cooperate with authorities in managing this national emergency. As WHO and DOH experts have already concluded based on the experience of other countries that have successfully contained COVID-19, there is no other way but for everyone to stay home. This is one big sacrifice we must do as a nation to survive this crisis,” he added.
LENIENT 1ST DAY
On the first day of the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said policemen were lenient to violators of the order.
Banac said those who violated the basic guidelines, including drivers of public utility vehicles who were not exempted from the quarantine, were merely informed of their violation and then told to go home.
“We rebuked them, told them to go home and warned them they are going to be apprehended if they (insisted). Our policemen gave them the leeway,” Banac said, referring to drivers of public vehicles who still plied their route despite the suspension of the operation of mass transportation.
PNP’s Highway Patrol Group chief Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz said they flagged down at least 600 taxis along EDSA for violation of the quarantine guidelines and warned their vehicles will be impounded if they again violate the regulation.
Banac said the PNP will be stricter in the implementation of quarantine rules.
“We are going to conduct patrols, we’re going to monitor (movement of people), we (policemen) will be in the streets to ensure maximum and enhanced visibility of uniformed policemen,” Banac said.
PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said: “It’s (operation of public transport) against the guidelines but we spared them because we want our countrymen (on board) to return to their homes.”
Eleazar said the PNP did not also want the people to be stranded away from their homes “because that would also be difficult for us to manage.”
“We will be enforcing these guidelines, including those related to public utility vehicles. Starting tomorrow, we going to diligently implement that, including our strict enforcement of the guidelines of this enhanced community quarantine,” he said.
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete law enforcers can arrest and impound taxi cabs who violate quarantine guidelines because of the suspension of all mass transportation.
“Those who will insist on operating these facilities and disobey orders from law enforcers to desist from further operation may be held to account under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code,” Perete said.
Perete said this is separate from the administrative offense they will face from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
“The criminal case is distinct from the administrative remedy. Remember, in the hands of an operator, a franchise to operate is saddled with conditions, among them compliance with the lawful orders of the State, “he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday before dawn went to Caloocan City and Valenzuela City to inspect how law authorities were implementing the enhanced community quarantine.
The President, accompanied by the members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), inspected the control points at the MacArthur Highway in Caloocan City and Valenzuela City and another located in Mindanao Avenue-North Expressway at around 4 am.
Duterte did not wear any face mask and not shake hands with any of the people who were manning or passing through the checkpoints. He also observed social distancing and kept a six-feet distance from the people that he talked with.
PSG commander Colonel Jesus Durante III said Dutete talked with the police and soldiers who manned the checkpoints and appealed to the people to be patient and cooperative.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said military trucks and accredited private buses were deployed to ferry commuters exempted from the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
Panelo said Malacanang raised the plight of the commuters with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and MMDA chairman Danilo Lim who coordinated with the Armed Forces and private bus companies.
He said only the army trucks to be provided by the AFP and private buses bearing the logo of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority will be allowed to ferry health workers and other exempted individuals to and from their places of work and homes.
“The Palace will continue to assess the evolving health crisis to give the appropriate response to any problematic situation during this period even as we assure everyone that the consequent inconvenience arising from this government undertaking is minuscule and temporary as against the end result of securing our safety and survival from the dreaded COVID-19,” Panelo said.
In Pasig City, Mayor Vico Sotto allowed the continued operation of passenger tricycles to ferry health workers to work.
Sotto said that even with the enhanced community quarantine in place, workers in the health department, essential services such as food and restaurants, and pharmacy need transportation as not all of them have their own vehicles.
He said that city hall’s transport services will not be enough to accommodate the employees who are allowed to continue working.
MASS TRANSPORT PARALYSIS
With the government’s enhanced community quarantine, mass transportation was paralyzed especially in Metro Manila: local airline operators canceled flights from all airports operating in Luzon, ride-hailing companies partially stopped their operations, railway systems suspended train trips, and public utility vehicles such as buses and stepney were banned.
The Department of Transportation said all air passengers, regardless of nationality, will only be allowed to leave the country within the 72-hour period, or until Friday, March 20, at 12:00 a.m., unless their flights have been canceled by the airlines or the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).
Cebu Pacific and Celeb flights have been canceled from March 19 until April 14, while
AirAsia canceled all its domestic flights to and from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Clark International Airport also until April 14.
Air Asia is also canceling its international flights from Manila and Clark starting 20 March until the end of the quarantine period.
On the other hand, ride-hailing firm Grab Philippines suspended its car and trip sharing services but continued the operation of its delivery food and parcel business,
“Upon careful assessment of the situation on the ground and after discussing with our regulators, we have resumed GrabFood and GrabExpress operations as of 1:30pm today, March 17, with skeletal delivery-fleet. The decision was made to support the food establishments that will continue to operate and maintain the continuous flow of goods to serve the essential needs of Filipinos during these trying times.” Grab said in a statement.
Operation of Grab and Kasundo of Joyride and Angkas Padala are suspended.
Rail systems Metro Rail Transit line 3, Light Rail Transit LRT 1 and 2 and Philippine National Railways (PNR) in Metro Manila were all suspended.
MRT-3 management announced that even the rehabilitation of MRT-3 has been suspended even during the Holy week.
In a memorandum circular, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) issued guidelines in the implementation of the Luzon-wide quarantine in all ports under its jurisdiction to ensure the unhampered movement of cargoes within, to and from the entire Luzon and the movement of accompanying crew or personnel of transiting cargoes.
It said trucks carrying cargoes to and from ports in Luzon will no longer be required to secure CEWP from PPA or port terminal operators.
Ports shall also continue to be open to cargo ships but embarkation and disembarkation of crew will not be allowed.
All passengers ships will are banned in Luzon entry ports.
The Philippine Coast Guard said fishermen are allowed to fish under the Luzon-wide community quarantine, subject to inspection by authorities.
There was no mention of fishermen being exempted from the community quarantine under the guidelines issued by Malacanang on Monday night.
“Artisanal fishers and commercial fishers who use legal means may still conduct usual operation but shall be under stringent health protocols and safety guidelines to be conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard, PNP-Maritime Group, and the Philippine Navy,” the PCG said in an advisory.
“When signaled to stop, please obey immediately. When boarded, present all crew to the boarding team for thermal check-up,” it added.
It urged fishing boat captains to refuse, isolate or restrict to cabin any fish worker who will exhibit flu-like symptoms, report the case to the PCG or “return to port upon discovery of a sick crew.”
“Deny sick crew access to cargo holds, gears, and catch as much as possible,” it added.
The PCG likewise told small-scale fishers to “postpone fishing when not feeling well.”
“In areas under community quarantine like Manila Bay, please be informed that the No Sail Policy applies to passenger vessels,” the PCG also said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Myla Iglesias