MANILA

Health or economy? Duterte faces tough decision

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has a tough decision to make in the next few days.

The medical community, University of the Philippines (UP) experts and some legislators are calling for an extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and four Luzon provinces.

The government, however, could not afford to further lock down the National Capital Region (NCR).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the country loses at least P18 billion everyday because of the MECQ.

In a public address broadcast Monday night, August 10, 2020, Duterte said he was faced with a dilemma.

“Ito ang dilemma ko, dito ako between the devil and the deep blue sea. Gusto ng mga doktor na i-lockdown kung may mga infected diyan. The percentage of the people affected in the community is not given any figure kung ilan sila,” he said.

“Ito namang sa kabila, kailangan natin nang palabasin ‘yung mga tao lalo na sa mga trabaho na kailangan talaga ng bayan — food and everything — and also to move the economy,” he added.

To the doctors, Duterte said the government no longer has funds to provide cash grants to the poor, which is why a lot of people are going out to work or earn to be able to feed their families.

The government twice distributed cash amounting to between P5,000 and P8,000 per family to up to 23 million families as social amelioration under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

“So I’m telling the doctors, as much as I would want really to give in to your demands especially in the matter of lockdown — I want it because I do not want the contamination to continue, it’s a conti — it’s a thing that’s running like — it’s a continuing thing. Tapos ito ngayon ‘yung kailangan ko rin bitawan,” Duterte said.

UP assistant professor Ranjit Rye, in a television interview Monday, said strict quarantine measures should be implemented for at least a month because of the high positivity and critical care utilization rates in the NCR.

“The template that we can follow is Cebu. In Cebu, after one and a half months of very strict quarantines, they were able to hammer down the rate of transmission,” Rye said.

He was referring to Cebu City, capital of Cebu province and considered the Covid-19 hotspot in the Visayas.

Cebu City shifted to general community quarantine (GCQ) on June 1, but was reverted to enhanced community quarantine on June 16 and again on July 1.

Restrictions were lowered to MECQ on July 16 and further to GCQ on August 1.

“These are very positive things and if they can continue that and sustain that, we will see that Cebu will open up, its economy will open up, and it’s going to look forward to a brighter Christmas,” Rye said.

Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan, chairperson of the committee on health of the House of Representatives, said two weeks are not enough to reverse the surge in cases in the NCR and nearby provinces.

Roque said the biggest problem is the lack of funds to sustain the strict quarantine measures.

“Alam niyo po, malinaw naman po ang Presidente,ang pinaka mabisa pong paraan para mapababa ang numero ay patagalin ang MECQ o kaya ang ECQ,” he said.

“Ang problema po, wala na tayong ipang aayuda kung ang tao naman po ay hindi makakapag trabaho, baka mamatay dahil sa kawalan ng hanap buhay,” he added.

Under ECQ or MECQ, mass transport systems are suspended and non-essential businesses are closed. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo and Jove Moya/SunStar Philippines)


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