Roque: Reclassification of areas outside Metro possible this week

    Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

    PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said a reclassification or easing of quarantine restrictions may be expected in some areas around Metro Manila before the week ends, as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country have been showing a downtrend.

    Roque said in the case of Metro Manila, it would have to be re-examined closely.

    “Sa datos na nakita natin, bumababa po iyong kaso ng COVID-19 kapag ni-record natin sila from onset of illness, at tingin ko po ang datos sa doubling time ay humahaba din. So, I would say that it is a safe conclusion na magkakaroon na naman po ng reclassification, except iba po talaga ang data ng Metro Manila (In the data we see, the cases of COVID-19 is going down based on the record from the onset of illness. I think the case of doubling time had also gone down. So, I would say that it is a safe conclusion that there would be a reclassification, except the data in Metro Manila is different),” he said.

    Placed under the general community quarantine (GCQ) from June 1 to 15 are the National Capital Region (NCR), Cagayan Valley (Region 2), Central Luzon (Region 3), Calabarzon (Region 4-A), Central Visayas (Region 7), Pangasinan province, and the cities of Zamboanga, Davao, Cebu and Mandaue while the rest of the country is under the modified GCQ (MGCQ).

    While under GCQ, Metro Manila and Cebu City had been asked to strictly monitor their health system performance capacity and compliance with the surveillance, isolation and treatment protocols.

    Roque said that a week after the shift to GCQ, he still cannot say if Metro Manila could be downgraded from the GCQ to MGCQ.

    “I think Metro Manila will have to be examined closer if it will shift to MGCQ next week. I cannot actually conclude because the data of NCR is different compared to the national trend,” he said.

    President Duterte would again meet with the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) this week to discuss the fate of these provinces and cities, Roque said.

    Roque added Cabinet officials might again travel to Davao City for the meeting with the President, where he has been staying for more than a week now.

    The Office of the Presidential Adviser for Visayas yesterday said at least three airports in the Visayas region are set to open by next week to accommodate more domestic travels and ferrying of cargo in the country.

    Assistant Secretary Jonji Gonzales, during the Laging Handa network briefing, said the airport in Iloilo City is set to open by June 10, while the airports in Caticlan and Kalibo in Aklan are scheduled to reopen by June 16.

    At present, only the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) is open for commercial domestic flights in the entire Visayas region.

    Gonzales said that due to the continued threat of COVID-19, other airports in the Visayas like those in Dumaguete, Bohol, Tacloban, Ormoc, Maasin, Catarman and Bacolod City will remain closed for commercial travel.

    Gonzales said the government is also looking at already opening the MCIA for flights from abroad, particularly those that would bring in repatriated Filipinos (OFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

    He said a molecular laboratory that has a capacity to conduct up to 1,5000 COVID-19 PCR tests is being set up at the MCIA complex to check incoming passengers.

    He said this is in response to the order of President Duterte to allow OFWs and OFs to fly directly to their provinces from abroad to avoid congesting Metro Manila and delay the return of the Filipinos back to their families.

    “We can now receive OFWs direct from abroad because we will have a molecular lab in the airport with 1,500 capacity, and this will help decongest Metro Manila. The OFWs no longer need to pass there when returning to the country, they can go to Cebu, the Mactan-Cebu airport),” Gonzales said.

    Last Saturday, the government opened the Clark International Airport to returning OFs or repatriated OFWs.

    Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said at least 600 OFWs returned to the country via the Clark Airport over the weekend. The Bases Conversion Development Authority said part of the batch of OFWS that arrived in Clark were 345 seafarers from the Royal Carribean Cruise Ship.

    Bello said all OFWs were subjected to PCR testing, the results of which were released yesterday. Those who tested negative will be sent back immediately to their provinces starting today, Tuesday, and allowed to complete their mandatory 14-day quarantine in their home provinces.

    The Department of Transportation (DOTr) opened four more new additional city bus routes yesterday to further ease traffic in the metropolis and ferry stranded commuters due to the lack of public transportation in the metropolis.

    The new routes include Route 3 with pick-up point in Monumento going to the Valenzuela Gateway Complex, Route 2 from Gilmore to Taytay, Route 13 from Buendia to BGC, and Route 21 from Monumento to San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.

    DOTr has so far opened 12 additional routes for buses since Metro Manila shifted to GCQ last June 1.

    Also, the DOTr said it has deployed 268 Point-to-Point (P2P) buses in 28 routes that will traverse within Metro Manila and adjacent areas.

    The additional P2P buses will transport passengers going to Imus, Bacoor, Dasmariñas and Noveleta in Cavite; Sta. Rosa and Calamba in Laguna; Cainta and Antipolo in Rizal; Malolos, Balagtas, Pandi, Sta. Maria, and Plaridel in Bulacan; and to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Sangley Airport in Cavite.

    The special buses have been issued special permits by the LTFRB on strict instructions to observe health protocols such as physical distancing and wearing of face masks by all personnel and passengers.

    “As part of the preventive measures, the use of face masks and gloves for P2P bus drivers will be mandatory. Also required are the thorough and regular disinfecting of the buses and bus terminals,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said. – With Victor Reyes and Noel Talacay

    He added that the passenger load for the P2P buses should also not exceed 50 percent or half of the vehicle’s capacity, and all units should be equipped with GNSS for monitoring of movement, automatic fare collection system (AFCS) for cashless payments, and RFID tags, among others.