By Chito Chavez
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Saturday mandated that local officials to initiate appropriate measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) with the shift of Metro Manila from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) starting June 1.
With the less restricted quarantine protocols, DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said that local government units (LGUs) should strictly implement the minimum health standards in their communities as GCQ is still a quarantine.
The minimum health standards include wearing of face masks in public places, curfew implementation, the maintenance of physical distancing in markets and other public places, one-passenger rule in tricycles, among others.
He stressed that the shift to GCQ means relaxing the movement of people while local officials must ensure that the freer movement of people won’t result in bigger numbers of COVID-19 infection in their communities.
Año added that the LGUs must utilize their authority to impose localized lockdowns in critical barangays so long as there is concurrence with the regional Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
“We cannot let our guards down until the medical community finds a medicine or vaccine to cure this disease. In the meantime, we will follow our national government-enabled, local government unit-led, people-centered strategy in dealing with this crisis,” Año said.
To make local officials more accountable for the campaign against COVID-19 in their communities, Año urged the public to cooperate with authorities and report any failure on the part of local chief executives (LCE) in implementing health measures that ensure public fety.
He urged local officials to go back to the drawing board and re-study the movement of all their citizens and implement localized measures to change behaviors to curtail the further spread of the virus.
“LGUs must also consider new ways of doing business such as: on-line applications of all types of permits, on-line payment systems, use of telemedicine platforms for their constituents, use of courier services to accept and deliver documents, as well as other innovations,” Año said.
In implementing the GCQ, Año said local officials must put in place steps to ensure full compliance with bio-safety and physical distancing rules, including the placing of visual cues in places where crowds could gather with the marshalls being deployed to enforce health regulations.
“Local officials must prepare to deploy more policemen and barangay tanods and other force multipliers in places where crowds always gather to ensure public order and monitor physical distancing and bio-safety compliance in those places,’’ he added.
“These places include banks, automated teller machines (ATMs), supermarkets, public markets, drug stores, and pharmacies, clinics, and other places frequented by people for their basic needs,’’ Año noted.
Año pointed out “that we are winning the war against COVID-19 but local officials must be on guard against anything that will cause a spike in cases in their communities’’.
He added that overall the country has performed well in managing the COVID-19 crisis.
However, Año pointed out that the new challenges such as the return of tens of thousands of displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the relocation of informal settler families from Metro Manila make it more difficult for the LGUs to manage their communities in the midst of COVID-19.
“The national government will provide all your needs but you will have to give more energy and dedication in these times when we make our people survive and emerge resilient from this crisis,” Año stressed.
On the other hand, Año insisted “that the public must cooperate with authorities at all times but be vigilant against officials who will fail in performing their jobs’’.
“This protection against COVID-19 is a two-way street that requires all of us to help and cooperate. This is how we make our communities and our nation stronger in dealing with this crisis,” Año concluded.