Mayors seek more gains vs COVID-19 before lifting 'modified' lockdown

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2020 10:15 PM

MANILA—A majority of Metro Manila mayors prefer to keep the capital region under stricter lockdown until the end of August, hoping to see strong indications if the measure was slowing down COVID-19 infections, ABS-CBN News learned.

The preference was made known in an informal vote Thursday night, following an online meeting, which also tackled the designation of cabinet members for Metro Manila and 4 neighboring provinces under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

With the quarantine set to end on Aug. 18, the local executives sought to get a feel of individual sentiments on whether to recommend an extension or a shift back to the less-stringent general community quarantine (GCQ).

One mayor said the 10-7 "vote" in favor of keeping the MECQ until the end of the month might still change since the evaluation was made only 10 days into the 2-week lockdown, which began last Aug. 4. Mayors are set to meet again on Sunday, he said.

"But so far, the sentiment is for an extension," he said on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to discuss the matter in public.

Sought for comment, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said the city government was ready in case the national government again placed Metro Manila under GCQ.

Zamora said he would like to seen the number of infections drop "consistently" before shifting from the current quarantine setup.

"I believe we have to give it a little time for us to feel the effect of the MECQ kasi kung bubuksan natin agad-agad, baka yung na-gain natin na progress in the last few days under MECQ, masayang lang naman din," he said.

(I believe we have to give it a little time for us to feel the effect of the MECQ because if we're going to loosen it right away, the gains of the last few days under MECQ might be put to waste.)

The Department of Health on Friday announced 6,216 new cases, pushing the total number of coronavirus infections in the Philippines to 153,660, the highest in Southeast Asia.

The National Capital Region recorded the most number of new cases with 3,848. It's followed by Laguna (302), Rizal (242), Cavite (240), and Bulacan (178), the provinces also placed under MECQ.

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian said he was in favor of keeping Metro Manila under MECQ but could change his mind "depending on the data in the coming days."

"That's my preliminary expression based on the data I'm seeing," he said.

The national government imposed tougher lockdowns in Metro Manila, the COVID-19 epicenter, and nearby provinces, to slow down transmission and recalibrate its strategy against the pandemic.

Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco welcomed the decision to assign cabinet members for each of the local government units in the MECQ areas.

He said the national government had been providing a daily supply of 1,000 test kits, including personnel conducting swab tests and isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients from his city.

"Talagang tumutugon sila," he said, describing as "unfair" criticisms online that the new cabinet assignments were only meant to show that the national government was doing something.

(They really respond to our needs.)

"Hindi naman namin kaya 'to talaga mag-isa and having another secretary to help us would always be very welcome," said Zamora, who will be working closely with acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua.

(We really can't do this alone and and having another secretary to help us would always be very welcome.)

Zamora said the city government spent P10-P12 million to provide 45,000 food packs. It has completed its 13th round of distribution.

Gatchalian said assigning Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña to Valenzuela would provide his city a "sounding board to the national government."

"I welcome it because... when faced with a big task, like doing the heavy lifting in the COVID response, any type of assistance is much welcome," the mayor said.