By Genalyn Kabiling
The government’s economic team initially opposed the domestic travel ban imposed on Metro Manila but later agreed with President Duterte’s “wisdom” to implement such a measure as a precaution against the coronavirus threat.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez revealed that the country’s economic managers raised their objection to the suspension of travel to and from Metro Manila due to the potential impact on economic activity.
“Kami din po sa economic team, una ho nag-o-object kami sa ganitong klaseng quarantine, but in the end ho siyempre po pag nag-decide na iyong… iba ho ang wisdom ng Pangulo – ay makikita ninyo na tama nga iyong kanyang naging desisyon,” he said in a press conference in Malacañang.
(We, the economic team, first objected against that kind of quarantine but in the end they made that decision. The President’s wisdom is different. You will see that his decision was right all along.)
The economic managers eventually recognized there will only be “minimal disruption” in business activity when the community quarantine takes effect on Sunday and over the next 30 days, Lopez said.
The transport of food and other goods is exempted from the domestic travel ban in Metro Manila to ensure an uninterrupted supply in the capital region, Lopez said.
Work in government frontline agencies as well as in the private sector will also continue, but flexible work arrangements are encouraged for the employees.
“Ang maganda ho nakita natin with minimal disruption dito sa mga pagkain, sa goods, sa negosyo, sa trabaho especially, nandiyan pa iyong kabuhayan. Kaya balance na rin po,” Lopez said.
(The good thing is there will be a minimal disruption to food, goods, businesses, and employment, especially since that’s the livelihood of our people. So it all balances out.)
He said manufacturing, retail, and service establishments are advised to remain in operation during the quarantine period in Metro Manila. Banks and the stock market will also stay open.
“Iyon bangko ay tuloy po ang operation niyan. Kasi nagpa-panic yata iyong ibang tao, naghahaba ang pila sa mga ATM, so may replenishment po iyan. Huwag po silang mag-alala, hindi mauubusan ng pera ang mga bangko at nire-replenish po iyan,” he said.
(The banks will continue their operations. Some people are panicking and there are long lines at ATMs. There will be replenishment. Do not worry. The banks will not run out of money.)
“Normal operations po tayo sa bangko, sa mga ibang mga business establishments.” (We will have normal operations in banks and other business establishments.)
The government earlier raised the alert level for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country to Code Red Sublevel 2 following the escalating cases of infections.
Pesident Duterte, in a public address Thursday night, approved the implementation of strict social distancing measures in Metro Manila for 30 days, including a community quarantine in Metro Manila. He said some people did not want to use the term but he conceded that “it is a lockdown.”
Among the anti-coronavirus measure are restrictions on land, domestic air, and sea travel to and from Metro Manila Manila from March 15 to April 14; the extension of class suspension; and a ban on mass gatherings.
‘Earlier the better’
Lopez explained the government decided to take these “drastic” and stringent measures to control the spread of the coronavirus and ensure the health of Filipinos. He said if such measures are not imposed, there might be an “exponential” increase in the number of cases.
He admitted that they learned from other countries that were not too strict with their health protocols, leading to the sharp increase in cases of infections.
“The earlier the better, kasi kung hindi nga raw puputulin kaagad ngayon, ay possibleng humarap tayo sa libu-libo pang kaso niyan in just in a few days,” he said. (Because if we don’t do it now, we might face thousands of cases in just a few days),” he said.
“It’s a learning na huwag na nating gayahin iyong mga ginawa nila at mas mag-strikto tayo (not to follow what they did and instead we will become more strict).”
He said the government has yet to implement the “super-drastic measures” such as total quarantine like the one implemented in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus broke out.
“Ang pinaka-drastic pa talaga nito, walang galawan, talagang nasa bahay lahat, nasa building lahat, bakante ang—parang iyong Wuhan model. That’s another model na hindi pa natin na-implement, iyon ang talagang drastic na,” he said.
(The most drastic measures involve no movement, everyone will stay at home or in buildings. They will be empty, like the Wuhan model. That’s another model we have not implemented, that’s really drastic.)
“Sa usapan, because it’s a model na puwede nating i-consider. But that’s really, you know, super drastic. Kung libo-libo na iyong naging kaso kaagad, palagay ko iyan na iyong extreme.”
(In our discussions, it’s a model we can consider. But that’s really, you know, super drastic. If there will be thousands of cases, I think that will be the extreme measure.)
Community quarantine, not lockdown
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles has clarified that the government will enforce a community quarantine, not a lockdown, on Metro Manila.
He said the inter-agency task force on the management of emerging infectious diseases will soon establish the guidelines on the community quarantine, including the “do’s and don’ts.”
“This is not a lockdown. Kasi iba iyong connotation ng lockdown eh, pag sinasabi mong ‘lockdown’ ang daming interpretation, hindi naman siya a technical meaning. But if you say ‘quarantine,’ may technical, medical meaning po iyan,” he said.
(The connotation of a lockdown is different. When you say lockdown, there are many interpretations. But if you say quarantine, there is a technical medical meaning.)
“Ang imagination ng iba, pag lockdown, wala nang cargo, wala nang papasok na food supplies, kaya nga nagpa-panic (Others imagine a lockdown means no cargo, no food supplies so there is panic) so deliberately we don’t used the word lockdown.”