MANILA — At least 10 labor groups questioned Tuesday the government's decision to put Luzon under "enhanced community quarantine" that in effect paralyzed the island in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Luzon, including the Southwestern Tagalog Region (MIMAROPA), was placed under enhanced community quarantine as soon as Tuesday midnight, just hours after the tougher measure was announced by President Rodrigo Duterte in a taped public address.
It meant strict home confinement in all households, suspension of transportation lines, regulation of provision for food and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce isolation procedures, according to the Palace memorandum.
However, some workers were caught by surprise as the lockdown took effect.
"The government has thrown us all into a situation of complete uncertainty... [We] demand that the government lay down and implement concrete plans to ensure that workers and families be able to meet their basic needs during the duration of the lockdown," said All Workers Unity, an alliance of public and private sector workers.
During the quarantine period, all Luzon residents, with the exemption of health workers and uniformed personnel on official business, are ordered to stay home and are only allowed to step out when accessing basic necessities. Duterte ordered village officials to feed their constituents.
But the labor groups questioned the capacity of barangays to comply with Duterte's order as "even most local government units are caught flat-footed during calamities."
"We decry and denounce how the national government led by President Duterte has passed on to the barangays the responsibility of ensuring that families have food on their tables during the duration of the lockdown. Most barangays are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to address these sudden responsibilities," the labor groups said.
The group said laborers must be guaranteed of income, especially those working under the no-work, no-pay policy.
"None of this is the fault of workers... The Duterte government must ensure that all Filipino families especially the poorest among us will be provided with food and the necessary vitamins, alcohol, and household disinfectant to enable us to resist COVID-19 and boost our immunity. This is the government’s responsibility to all Filipinos,” they said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government will discuss Tuesday afternoon the possibility of providing shuttle services for frontliners battling COVID-19.
For the meantime, the DILG is urging local government units across Luzon to help ferry their health workers to hospitals.
The Philippines has so far confirmed 142 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 12 deaths and 3 patients who recovered.