MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte has said he does not want to be remembered as the "one who caused the death of so many" during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he tackled a new containment strategy.
Duterte said he was among those who pushed for the deferment to next week of Metro Manila's shift to a looser lockdown with a new alert levels system to give authorities more time to iron out guidelines.
"Ako ang isa nagsabi kulang ang guidelines," the President said in a taped speech that aired on Saturday.
(I was one of those who said the guidelines were lacking.)
"I ask for the general public's continued understanding and patience on this matter. I know that many of you are raring to go to work and conduct your business already, but we have to make sure that we cover any contingency so that we may reduce the risk of infections," he said.
Duterte said he would not have interfered or spoken up if COVID-19 did not involve potential death or serious physical illness.
"But the problem is buhay e, 'yan ang mahirap, and I would not want to be remembered as one who caused the death of so many," he said.
"Kung maaari lang, menus-menusan ko 'yong namatay dito sa Pilipinas during my watch."
(But the problem is that's life, that is what's difficult. If possible, I want to reduce deaths in the Philippines during my watch.)
The Philippines has logged some 2.1 million coronavirus infections, including 34,733 deaths, among the highest in Asia.
Government hopes the Sept. 16 to 30 pilot of the new quarantine set-up in the capital region could better curb COVID-19 cases and spur business activity. Under this new system, granular lockdowns will be imposed in hotspots, instead of placing entire cities or the whole region under strict quarantine.
The economy contracted more than 9 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic.
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 a report from Reuters
Video courtesy of PTV