By Vanne Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed his support for the government’s decision to place Metro Manila, Laguna and Cebu City under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) due to persisting threats of COVID-19.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Tuesday President Duterte’s decision to enforce from May 16 to May 30 the MECQ in areas that are still considered “high-risk” for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
“The President’s decision was based on recommendations made by health experts who have been on top of the health crisis. I am confident that the recommendations given to him were the result of intelligent discussions that were based on solid data provided by authorities on the ground,” Sotto said in a statement.
Before the declaration, the Senate chief expressed concerns in lifting the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) being implemented in various parts of the country, including Metro Manila, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
“Rushing back to the ‘old’ normal, or even just a semblance of it, will be reckless. It will expose majority of our people to the continuing threat of the infectious novel coronavirus and open the gates for a second wave, which could be more vicious and difficult to handle,” he said.
He said he understood the need for people to go back to their jobs and start earning again for their families. “But while these are valid and serious, I believe that it is best if we all proceed on the side of caution and not throw away the gains of our sacrifices for almost two months,” he pointed out.
Aside from Sotto, Sen. Grace Poe also agreed that the country should exercise caution in deciding to ease the lockdown rules.
“Mas mabuti nang safe (It is better to be safe) than sorry,” she told reporters in an online meeting.
Under the MECQ, there shall be limited movement for essential services and work; operation of selective manufacturing and processing plants up to maximum of 50 percent workforce; limited transportation services for essential goods and services; and suspension of physical classes.
The executive department has yet to release the list of industries, businesses, and services that will be allowed to operate in MECQ areas.
Meanwhile, Sen. Cynthia Villar said she supports the proposal of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno to provide “emergency employment” to Filipinos.
Diokno said this would serve as a fiscal stimulus as the coountry transitions to what he preferred to call as the “New Economy”.
The former budget secretary said that government spending could be increased by a percentage or two, equivalent to ₱200 billion to ₱400 billion to create two million jobs.
“Most Filipinos would really rather go back to work than to wait for aid or relief goods. It is more empowering for them if we let them earn their upkeep. I agree with Diokno that it provides a greater sense of self respect,” Villar said in a statement.
“We will be hitting two birds with one stone with this recommendation—provide employment and provide the needed impetus to our economy, both are urgently needed with the prolonged Covid-19 infection. Jobs have a multiplier effect to the economy,” she added.
Villar earlier recommended the opening of labor-intensive sectors such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing to avoid social unrest due to lack of income or livelihood.