MANILA — Malacañang said on Thursday it was uncertain if government had enough funds to provide cash aid should Metro Manila return to the strictest lockdown level to contain the spread of the highly transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant.
The capital region and nearby areas account for about 60 percent of the economic output, and a total lockdown would result in job losses, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"And ang katotohanan po, hindi ko po alam kung meron tayong pang-ayuda para sa another malawakang lockdown," he said in a press briefing.
"Siguro po kung talagang kinakailangan, hahanap at hahanap tayo," added the official.
(The truth is I do not know if we have enough funds for assistance for another expansive lockdown. Perhaps if it's really needed, we will find some.)
Mayors had backed the proposed enhanced community quarantine in the region if the national government could provide cash assistance and at least 4 million COVID-19 shots, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos earlier said.
But the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 recommended on Wednesday that Metro Manila stay until Aug. 7 under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions, instead of the ECQ, the strictest of 4 lockdown levels.
Abalos was unable to relay the Metro Manila mayors' position on this because he lost audio during a virtual meeting with the IATF, said Roque, who is also spokesman for the task force.
"Wala pong nangyaring diskusyon... Noong nagsasalita nang una si Chairman Abalos, wala po siyang sounds, so hindi po namin narinig ang sinabi ni Chairman Abalos ay something to the effect na handa silang mag-ECQ. Hindi po namin narinig 'yon," he said.
(No discussion happened. When Chairman Abalos was speaking, he had no sounds, so we did not hear that what Chairman Abalos said was something to the effect that they are ready for an ECQ. We did not hear that.)
Nonetheless, he said the IATF would meet again this Thursday to tackle quarantine appeals, including that of Metro Manila mayors.
The region has not yet reached the moderate risk level, in terms of COVID-19's attack rate and the area's health care capacity, said Roque.
"Siguro paghandaan na lang talaga natin ‘yong pagkakataon na talagang kinakailangan mapabagal ang pagkalat ng sakit," he said.
(Perhaps, let us just prepare for the possibility when we will need to slow down the spread of the disease.)
The Department of Health, however, said Thursday the Philippines was back to moderate from low risk, with Metro Manila among regions under the moderate risk classification.
Roque, meanwhile, said vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez Jr can guarantee "2 million or so" out of the 4 million COVID-19 shots that Metro Manila's mayors asked for.
The Philippines has recorded some 1.5 million coronavirus cases, the second highest tally in Southeast Asia next to Indonesia.
With only 6 percent of the Philippines' 110 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, millions remain vulnerable to infection. The government is aiming to fully immunize up to 70 million people before the year ends.
– With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters
Video courtesy of PTV