BY VICTOR REYES and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
AS the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continue to soar throughout the country, especially in Metro Manila, local government units have requested the defense department for augmentation troops to assist police teams in ensuring strict public compliance to health protocols, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.
Lorenzana said: “Humihingi na naman ‘yung mga LGUs ng mga tropa, military at saka pulis para i-implement ‘yung social distancing, mask sa mga public places (LGUs are again asking for troops, military and police teams, to implement social distancing, and the wearing of face masks in public places).”
He did not identify which LGU requested for additional soldiers but said, “the LGUs can request the military and even the police to help them implement (the protocols) because here in Metro Manila, it seem there are few barangays which are on lockdown, so that’s where our troops are concentrating.”
Soldiers have been deployed to various places in Metro Manila and some provinces as augmentation forces to the government’s COVID-19 response.
As local chief executives hurry to stop the spike in cases in their areas, President Duterte yesterday said he is ready to fully open the economy once millions of Filipinos from big towns and cities have been vaccinated.
The President, in a speech at the launching of the Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport and again at the Port of Dumaguete, reiterated that he needs to fully open the economy soon because people are growing hungry and the people needs to return to work or restore their livelihoods.
Duterte said the government has already started its vaccination program but has yet to fully implement it due to limitation in supply.
He said without the vaccines, increased mobility must be done with utmost caution and responsibility, while at the same time ensuring that everyone follows the minimum health protocols.
“We cannot forever be in the strict protocols because we have to open the economy. People are hungry, people have to work, to eat to survive…Kung makita ko na umabot na ng milyon ang vaccinated, probably, especially around towns and big cities, okay na (We cannot forever be under strict protocols because we have to open the economy. People are hungry, people have to work, to eat to survive…If I see that millions are vaccinated, probably, especially around towns and big cities, it’s all right),” he said.
The government’s vaccination program targets to inoculate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos this year. Bulk of the anti-COVID vaccines that the government has ordered or are expecting to get as donations will be arriving by the second or third quarter of this year.
The President reiterated the need for everyone’s cooperation to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and to “emerge as a strong nation”.
“As we do our best to revive our economy and give our people the opportunity to recover and lead better lives, I appeal to everyone to please continue observing the prescribed health and safety protocols, whether in our homes or in public places, especially transport.
It is only with everyone’s cooperation that the nation can effectively contain the spread of COVID-19 and triumph against the pandemic,” he said.
The President said the government cannot force the people to follow but he hoped for everyone’s cooperation, adding that the observance of health protocols is a directive from the World Health Organization (WHO).
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana said the PNP will deploy additional Special Action Force personnel in the northern part of Metro Manila to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We will intensify our checkpoint operations at we are going to deploy additional number of personnel from the Special Action Force. It’s an indication that we are serious in confronting the spread of COVID-19,” said Usana.
“There are areas where there is a spike in cases… There are barangays that are on lockdown so we thought our policemen will focus in the areas where they are needed,” he also said.
Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez yesterday said he has signed Executive Order No. 2021-015 series of 2021 adjusting the city’s curfew hours to 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., from the 12 midnight to 3 a.m., which had been in effect since December. The new curfew took effect on Wednesday.
Under the EO, exempted from the new curfew hours are health workers, Authorized Persons Outside Residents, essential workers, police and military, barangay workers, and those working in call centers.
Also exempted are persons who are engaged in legitimate official public duties, on work-related trips, with scheduled flights and who came from local or international travel, and who are engaged in the profession of their religious or sectoral practices.
Olivarez said employees working within the curfew hour or those on night shifts need to bring their company IDs with a certificate of employment that specifically states their work hours.
Parañaque City still has 441 active cases as of yesterday.
In Pasay City, Executive Order ICR No. 33 series of 2021 was issued adjusting the curfew hours to 10.pm. until 4 a.m. from the present 12 midnight to 3 a.m. The order takes effect today.
The Pasay City government has placed 89 barangays, including 35 new ones, under granular lockdowns to stop the rapid transmission of the virus in the areas.
The City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit said barangays 10, 19, 23, 34, 39, 54, 58, 67, 72, 83, 86, 93, 94, 103, 104, 106, 114, 117, 124, 137, 147, 150, 151, 152, 161, 162, 166, 170, 176, 182, 185, 186, 187, 189, and 198 are now under a 14-day localized enhanced community quarantine until March 25.
Active COVID-19 cases in Pasay City stands at 462.
In Pasig City, the Office of the Building Officials (OBO) was temporarily closed following reports that some employees have been exposed to a confirmed asymptomatic case last week.
Sotto said all exposed personnel will undergo RT-PCR testing. OBO operations will resume after 14 days.
Pasig City has 360 active cases.
Meanwhile, the League of Provinces of the Philippines yesterday asked the national government to allow LGUs to conduct COVID-19 test on travelers.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has removed the travel authority and medical requirement as requirement for travelers.
The task force also decided that COVID-19 testing shall no longer be mandatory for domestic travelers.
“Our request is, since we have our own way of determining who are positive upon arrival at the port or port of entry, allow the LGU to prescribe either PCR, saliva or antigen test,” said LPP president and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr.
Velasco said LGUs need to test travelers to effectively identify who are COVID-19 carriers. – With Noel Talacay and Christian Oineza