By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate is ready to heed President Duterte’s order to place the entire island of Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” as cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country continue to increase.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said employees of the Upper Chamber will no longer have to go to work once the enhanced quarantine takes effect.
Under an enhanced community quarantine, as stated in the memorandum released by Malacañang Saturday, a “strict home quarantine shall be implemented in all households, transportation shall be suspended, provision of food and essential health services shall be regulated, and the heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures will be implemented.”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told CNN Philippines that the enhanced community quarantine is “effective immediately”, with “95 percent” of work, both in government and private sectors, to be suspended.
“We follow. Senate employees will no longer go [to] work in the meantime,” Sotto told reporters in a text message when asked about Duterte’s order.
He said the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms (OSAA) and other security officers of the chamber “will remain a skeletal number only.”
The Senate resumed operations on Monday but remained under restricted access after a resource person in a recent Senate hearing tested positive for COVID-19. The chamber also adjusted its office hours as local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila implement curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Sotto, however, also admitted to reporters having “concerns and questions” over the planned Luzon-wide quarantine.
In an interview with CNN Philippines after news about the quarantine broke out, the Senate leader said that while he understood the need for such a “drastic measure,” he said there should be a mechanism to make sure that workers would still be paid and assisted by the government and their employers while they comply with the work suspensions.
Businesses, he said, can “well afford it.”
“Saka, let’s say, kung mababawasan ang income nila, or mawawalan sila ng income, may kakainin pa din sila eh. Pero ‘yung mga maliliit na kababayan natin walang kakainin, eh (And if, let’s say, their income will be reduced or if it dries up, they will still be able to ear. But our poor countrymen have nothing to eat),” Sotto said.
Panelo also said the LGUs “will deliver” food and essential needs to residents. He said supermarkets “will remain open but goods to be bought would be regulated.”
Sotto said he is confident that the executive department will be able to adjust its measures as it assesses daily the impact of the “enhanced community quarantine.”