MANILA (UPDATE) - Sen. Cynthia Villar said Saturday Metro Manila could not go through another severe lockdown despite a recent swell in COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region, and medical workers calling for it.
"Hindi natin pwedeng isara ang ekonomiya, kailangan pag-igihin ng (Department of Health) at iba pang agency ang kanilang hakbang," Villar said in an interview on radio station DWIZ, a transcript of which was sent by her office to the media.
"Kapag lockdown kasi magsa-suffer ang ekonomiya. I guess we have to live with COVID 19."
The senator was reacting to the local medical community's appeal to shift Metro Manila back to stricter lockdown measures, as health frontliners reported "waging a losing battle against COVID-19."
Villar, whose family owns businesses in Metro Manila, urged medical workers to step up in a time of crisis.
"Hindi na siguro (babalik sa ECQ), pagbutihin nila trabaho nila. Hindi pwedeng isara ang ekonomiya kasi kung 'di naman mamamatay sa COVID, mamamatay naman sa gutom ang tao," she said.
"May time in our lives na ikaw talaga ang mapapagod. Iba-iba naman ang kalamidad. So itong kalamidad na ito ang mapapagod dito ang health frontliners natin. Iba iba 'yan, but I guess we need to work hard."
For the lawmaker, the coronavirus pandemic shed light on the country's weak health-care system.
"I think ngayon lang natin nakita na ang ating health facilities di maganda. So in the coming years, improve natin health facilities and services," she said.
Villar, who served as congresswoman of Las Piñas City from 2001 to 2010, said she would earmark funds to improve the city's hospital.
" 'Yung budget ko ngayon, ia-allocate ko ngayon sa pagpapalaki ng ospital namin sa Las Piñas from 200 to 500 beds," she said.
The congressional post, which has been with the family since 1987, is now occupied by her daughter Camille.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Villar Foundation, which she founded in 1992, is distributing seeds and fertilizers to the public for urban gardening.
"Kasi kung may tanim, di tayo magugutom. Kahit na wala tayong pera, may pagkain tayo," said Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President had directed the Inter-Agency Task Force to take action on the medical groups' concerns.
"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has heard the concerns of the medical community and the Chief Executive has directed the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to act on these concerns immediately," he said.
The Palace values the health care workers' service as frontliners in the fight against COVID-19, Roque said.
"We are grateful for their immense contributions to heal our people and our nation during these difficult times," he said.
"Your voices have been heard. We cannot afford to let down our modern heroes. This is our commitment."