Sotto opposes possible suspension of travel to and from Manila

Published March 12, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed his reservations over the move of the government to suspend local travels to and from Metro Manila to contain the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III (Alvin Kasiban / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (Alvin Kasiban / MANILA BULLETIN)
This was part of the recommendations submitted by the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging infectious Disease (IATF) to President Duterte in responding to the public health emergency.
In his address to the nation about the COVID-19 Thursday night, Duterte approved the recommendations of the IATF, which he said would be converted to an executive order to make sure that these would be obeyed.
Duterte said land, domestic air, and sea travel to and from Metro Manila shall be suspended starting March 15 to April 14 this year, subject to a daily review and assessment by the IATF.

The Senate chief equated the scenario to a lockdown, which he considered as an “overreaction” that will worsen public fears.

“Preventing travel to and from Metro Manila with only 52 cases as this point is a textbook case of overreaction. This drastic measure will only result in panic and hoarding of goods,” Sotto said in a statement on Thursday night while the IATF was meeting Duterte.

“The poor and the vulnerable sectors will be heavily-disadvantaged under this scenario, as they don’t have the resources to cope with any shortage of food and other necessities, and the resulting inflation, if any,” he warned.

Sotto said preventing local travel will also adversely affect the country’s economy.

“NCR is the political and economic capital of the Philippines. The economy will grind to a halt as the flow of goods and people from the provinces to NCR, and vice versa, will be affected,” he said.

The Senate leader instead supported a “localized” containment of the disease, which shall be limited to areas with a significant number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“The solution lies in more testing of the population and strict containment of heavily-affected areas, if such a scenario arises,” he said, adding in his statement that a Metro Manila lockdown is an “an extreme measure.”

“The time is not ripe for placing entire communities, cities and provinces under lockdown. Lockdown should be the last resort,” Sotto said.

Sotto, in an earlier statement, said government operations should continue despite the COVID-19 scare.