FROM the House of Representatives, a congressman has proposed a modification of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento of the first district of Samar said with the flattening of the curve still far off in the horizon, the government should adopt a modified system. This means “we will have areas that would remain under ECQ but we will also have areas that will be allowed to open businesses and allow their residents to go back to their normal lives. These areas will maintain a closed border and continue to observe social distancing as extra precaution.”
This two-tiered quarantine system was also proposed by former DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, a brother of the congressman, who said COVID-free zones should be maintained.
Sarmiento said: “Where there is presence of COVID-19 cases, PUM/PUIs, put them under enhanced community quarantine. Places with none, downgrade to community quarantine, and after assessing, places with no risk can be downgraded further to normal status.”
We note with optimism the underlying reasons behind this proposal from the Sarmiento brothers. Mel Senen Sarmiento further explained that his proposal will enable the people to continue to support the economy and provide food to the affected areas without jeopardizing the campaign to eliminate the virus. “We will stop COVID-19 in the Philippines but we have to make sure we don’t stop our people’s source of livelihood for it will be a greater problem in the future,” he said.
Congressman Sarmiento, chair of the House committee on transportation, said his proposal is feasible because now, there are only 105 cities and towns in Luzon that have confirmed COVID-19 cases, while there are 771 cities and municipalities on the island. Of the 40 provinces in Luzon, including the National Capital Region, only 23 have COVID cases, many of which only have one to two cases, he pointed out.
Sarmiento said since the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and Kalinga Apayao can be considered as possible COVID-free zones, they can cluster themselves into such zone where activities of residents, public transport and business can go back to full normalcy. However, their borders should remain closed from people coming from other provinces and towns.
Herein lies the problem. Our police, military and local government personnel who man the checkpoints most likely could not ensure 100-percent compliance from residents.
And so the whole proposal, excellent on paper, will fall flat in its implementation.