Soldiers deployed in COVID-19 frontlines, ready to face unseen enemy

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2020 12:54 AM

Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel who will be augmenting the Philippine National Police at quarantine checkpoints traveled along NLEX and Valenzuela as part of their deployment to key entry and exit points around Metro Manila on Sunday.

Some 2,500 military troops have been designated to help man the checkpoints, said Brig. Gen. Alex Luna, commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR). 

They, however, will not all go out together, as only about 1,000 will be initially deployed, with the rest poised to replace them after a full day’s work, and others as reserve forces. 

Before riding their vehicles, Luna spoke to the soldiers and reminded them how different this was from the conventional wars they are used to fighting. 

In battle, Luna said, sometimes troops who are slightly wounded but still want to fight are permitted to return to the frontlines. This time, any soldier that shows signs of infection or illness will be pulled from deployment, and his entire squad will be placed on quarantine.

The Philippine Navy will augment law enforcers along sea lanes and seaports, the Philippine Air Force will assist in manning airports and helipads, while the Philippine Army will help man major thoroughfares.

The AFP will be at checkpoints in the NLEX, the SLEX, the Cavitex, Ortigas leading to Cainta, and MacArthur Highway leading to CAMANAVA.

Luna said at any given inspection of buses, two inspectors with thermal scanners will board to make it faster to check for proper identification and temperatures. 

Security will stay outside the vehicle in case of untoward incidents. Frontliners will wear protective masks at all times. The fastest the AFP can clear a bus is 3 to 5 minutes, according to Luna.

Anyone found unauthorized to enter or exit Metro Manila will be asked to alight from the vehicle. The unauthorized person will be sent back, the sick will be picked up by ambulances on standby to take them to designated health facilities.

Luna clarified that unauthorized persons will not be arrested but merely restrained. Someone at the checkpoints will explain to them why they can no longer proceed, before they are sent back. 

These are AFP protocols, which they have sent to the PNP for reference.