MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte ended his latest national address with no mention of the government's move to extend the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) over Metro Manila and defer a looser lockdown that it hoped would spur business activity.
Government on Tuesday said the capital region's 13 million people would stay under modified enhanced community quarantine, postponing a pilot run of a more relaxed general community quarantine with alert levels from Sept. 8 to 30.
Duterte's 2-hour taped speech that aired on government's television network on Wednesday did not explain why authorities reached this decision.
Instead, Duterte said he did everything he could against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Kung sabihin ninyo ako ang nagkukulang, sorry. Ginawa ko ang lahat ko. Kung ang lahat ko kulang pa, patawad po, ‘yan lang talaga ang kaya ko," he said about 45 minutes into his speech.
(If you say that I am lacking, sorry. I did everything. If my everything still falls short, I apologize, that's all I can do.)
He also asked health workers to give government more time to adjust its finances and release their pending benefits.
Duterte also touched on a P3.4-billion drug bust, a Senate probe into alleged overpriced pandemic deals, and his stance that Sen. Richard Gordon, leader of the inquiry, should quit as chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
The President said his national address, the taping of which ended at around 1 AM, would be "continued maybe [the] day after tomorrow."
"But as far as can be easily na wala masyadong—we will report to you twice a week, and we will account every money na ginagastos ng gobyerno," he said.
(But as far as can be easily, when there will not be too much—we will report to you twice a week, and we will account every money that the government spends.)
The Philippines has among the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Asia and has been battling an epidemic since March last year, which has hamstrung efforts to revive an economy that contracted more than 9 percent in 2020.
Cases in the past 30 days alone accounted for more than a fifth of the country's 2.1 million cases, while total deaths have exceeded 34,400.
The extended MECQ in Metro Manila could sour the mood of small business owners who were anticipating better times with a relaxation of restrictions.
Salon owner Ricklem Badiang had been looking forward to getting his business back and running after weeks without income.
"We are hoping that we will have at least some customers because we owners have nothing left to shell out to pay for building rent and employee's pay," Badiang said before the government's announcement.
The Philippines, which exited recession in the second quarter after 5 consecutive quarters of gross domestic product contraction, is expected to grow slower than previously thought after a renewed surge in COVID-19 led to stricter mobility curbs in August.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters
Watch Duterte's full speech here: