Extended MECQ highly unlikely -- Roque

An extension of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces is “highly unlikely” due to the government’s shortage of funds for subsidy for affected sectors, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque recognized that the strict lockdown can effectively slow down the coronavirus transmission but the people needed to resume their livelihood given the government’s limited funds.

"Ang tanong ay kung posible, ang sagot ko ay (The question is if it is possible, my answer is) anything is possible but highly unlikely,” Roque said during a televised press briefing when asked about the possible MECQ extension.

"Mahihirapan manatili sa MECQ dahil nga wala na po tayong pang-ayuda. Ano naman ang gagawin natin sa ating mga kababayan kung hindi sila pupuwedeng magtrabaho at walang ayuda? (It will be difficult to stay in MECQ because we don't have funds for cash assistance. What will our people do if they are not allowed to work and there is no cash aid?)," he said.

In his televised address Monday night, President Duterte admitted that he wanted to impose a strict lockdown to stem the outbreak but the government no longer has funds to provide subsidy to affected sectors. He conceded that Filipinos must be allowed to get back to work so they can look after their families.

The modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) has been reimposed on Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal from August 4 to 18 following a timeout plea from the medical community.  These were places were originally placed under the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

Some groups have called for an extension of the two-week MECQ level to contain the rapid surge of coronavirus cases in the country.

Roque said the President recognizes that enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or MECQ is the most effective way to slow down the COVID transmission but the government is already cash-strapped to sustain the subsidy for low income families.

"Ang problema po ay wala na tayong pang-ayuda. Kung ang tao naman ay hindi makakapagtrabaho, baka mamatay dahil sa kawalan ng hanapbuhay (The problem is we no longer have funds for assistance.  If people can't go to work, they might die due to loss of livelihood)," he said.

To limit the coronavirus outbreak, Roque said the government will instead continue the aggressive testing, contact tracing, isolate and treatment of coronavirus patients.

He noted that Metro Manila loses around P18 billion a day while it is under the MECQ status.

Since the coronavirus will likely stay for a while, Roque said the nation must live "despite and in spite of COVID."

"Ang Presidente naman po, straight forward, transparent, wala na pong ayuda para doon sa hindi makapagtrabaho kaya kinakailangan po mabuhay, despite and in spite, protektahan po natin ang ating kalusugan nang tayo po ay makasulong sa ating pang-araw-araw na buhay (The President is straightforward, transparent when he said there is no more cash aid for those who cannot work so we must live despite and in spite (of COVID). Let us protect our health so we can continue with our daily lives)," he said.