BY NOEL TALACAY and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
METRO Manila mayors want the National Capital Region (NCR) to remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of the year to keep coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the region at a minimum.
This was the unanimous decision of the Metro Manila Council (MMC) on Sunday night, according to its spokesman and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) general manager Jojo Garcia.
In a virtual press briefing, Garcia said the Metro mayors want to stick to GCQ until December 31 as Metro Manila can easily adjust the capacity of businesses. A modified GCQ, he said, might cause a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Harry Roque, spokesman of President Duterte, said the MMC recommendation is still being studied by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
“That is the emerging consensus but of course I do not want to pre-empt it because it is a collegial decision,” Roque said.
Asked if the quarantine restriction can be lowered to MGCQ, Roque echoed Garcia in saying that the public might forget that the pandemic still exists and just go out and disregard health protocols.
He noted the downward trend in the number of infections and transmission rate in the country, including Metro Manila, and said that if this continues, it could eventually lead to a possible downgrade to MGCQ.
Almost the entire country is already under MGCQ until October 31 except for Metro Manila, the province of Batangas and the cities if Iloilo, Tacloban, Bacolod and Iligan.
Roque said the IATF will discuss the matter in its next meeting and make its own recommendation to President Duterte.
Roque added that while NCR is still under GCQ, however, “mas maluwag na GCQ ang pinapairal ngayon sa Metro Manila (a less restrictive GCQ is being implemented now in Metro Manila).”
He said proof of this is that more business establishments and activities, including public transportation, have been allowed to operate in the metropolis.
“Ang nangyayari po kasi ngayon bagama’t naka-GCQ ang Metro Manila eh nagkakaroon po tayo ng mas malawak na pagbubukas ng mga industriya na iyan naman po ang kinakailangan (Despite Metro Manila’s being under GCQ, there is more widespread opening of industries which is what is needed),” he added.
Aside from the lockdown classification, Garcia said three other major concerns were discussed and decided on by the 17 Metro Manila mayors.
One of this is the proposed shortening of the current curfew hours imposed in the region.
Garcia said all NCR local government units will move their curfew hours to 12 midnight to 4 a.m., except for Navotas City where the curfew period will remain at 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The curfew period will further be reduced from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. starting December 1 in anticipation of the traditional Simbang Gabi.
In Manila, city Mayor Isko Moreno said the new curfew hours will be implemented either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on when the City Council can pass an ordinance on the issue.
“If passed today, it will be implemented tomorrow or Wednesday,” Moreno said, adding the new curfew hours will be in effect until November 30 as a new curfew hours will be set starting December 1.
But Moreno said curfew hours for minors in Manila will remain at 8 p.m. until 5 a.m.
“Let me remind our people that there is an existing curfew for minors that starts at 8 p.m. Parents will be held liable if they allow their minors out,” he said.
Aside from the curfew hours, the MMC likewise agreed to allow NCR residents aged 18 to 65-years-old to go outside their residences. The IATF on Friday allowed 15 to 65-year-olds to already go out of their residences. The government had previously restricted children 21 years-old and below and 60 years-old and above to stay home as they are more susceptible to catching the new coronavirus.
Garcia said the adjustment was made to help boost the economy, even as he appealed to the public to still avoid leisure travel.
Garcia said the Metro Manila mayors also recommended the increasing of capacity for churches and other religious activities to 30 percent from the current 10 percent. He said they will wait for the IATF decision on the matter. – With Ashzel Hachero