By Ben Rosario
The Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, an organization of provincial governors in the country, on April 22, Wednesday, called for the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine or the maintenance of non-ECQ status of at least 30 provinces nationwide.
ULAP chairman and Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco, however, said he supports the extension of ECQ status of the national capital region and other areas where there remain numerous cases of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.
“May ilang bayan o lalawigan na pwede na siguro i-lift and ECQ (There are a number of localities and provinces where ECQ may be lifted),” Velasco said in an interview over radio DZBB.
Velasco, a retired Supreme Court justice, cited Romblon, his own province, and a number of island localities with 100 percent COVID-19 recovery or that did not have a single case of the dreaded disease, as among those that may qualify to proceed to the “new normal” phase.
He pointed out that some provinces have undergone 40 days of ECQ but remained COVID free.
In the case of Marinduque, an island province, all three reported cases have fully recovered, while coronavirus infection has been maintained at zero.
Notwithstanding his recommendation for lifting of ECQ status of many provinces, Velasco stated that there should be no exemption from social distancing, face mask requirement, and other safety precautions imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infection Diseases (IATF) and the Department of Health.
“Puwede na siguro magkaroon ng selective lifting sa ibang lugar, depende sa analysis ng IATF. Sa Metro Manila puwede rin palawigin pa dahil maraming infected (Maybe there should be selective lifting of ECQ in other places, depending on the analysis of IATF. In Metro Manila, it should be extended because there are still many infected persons),” he said.
The ULAP president also called on government to support the bid of provinces to access rapid testing processes for their constituents.
He cited Zambales Governor Jun Ebdane for acquiring the rapid antibody test to swiftly address the COVID-19 situation in his province and guide provincial health authorities in addressing it.
“We can use the same rapid test and if somebody tested positive, we can immediately isolate that person. The moment a positive is determined, that is the time to subject that person to the PCR test,” proposed Velasco.
According to Velasco empowering provincial governments to conduct mass testing for their constituents will give them a good advantage in fighting COVID-19.
“Wala kaming mga testing center at dinadala pa sa RITM. Pero ang ginagamit namin ay rapid antibody test na ginagamit naman sa ibang bansa (We do not have testing centers and we still have to bring the samples to RITM. But we are using the rapid antibody test, which is also being used in other countries),” he said.