MECQ may be extended in NCR, 4 provinces if Congress provides ‘ayuda’ – Malacañang

Malacañang said on Wednesday the country cannot afford to extend the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces unless Congress will allocate funds to aid those who are living in these areas.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement less than a week before the MECQ in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal lapses on August 18.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Roque echoed President Duterte's sentiments on Monday that the country has already used up the funds allocated by Congress for the social amelioration program (SAP).

"The funds intended by Congress for ayuda or social amelioration program for those who are living in areas which are under lockdown because of ECQ or MECQ have been already used by the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development)," he told "The Source" on Monday.

"If Congress, of course, provides for ayuda for Metro Manila and these four provinces, then the situation may change," he added.

He, however, said that the Palace will first let the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to make the formal recommendation to the President.

SAP in Bayanihan 2

According to Roque, he personally called Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Villafuerte to include funds for the SAP in the Bayanihan To Recover As One (Bayanihan 2) Act to aid those living in areas that were reverted to MECQ.

"I'm not sure if Congress was able to include it in the Bayanihan 2 package. I still have to check. It was not in the Senate version. We tried to insert it in the House version," he said.

"I don't know if it is there and I don't know if it will be approved by the bicam (bicameral committee). So we're not certain," he added.

Roque reiterated that for the government to be able to provide aid to affected citizens, there should first be a law that will allow such a move.

"As you know, under our Constitution, we can't spend public funds without a law appropriating such money," he said.

The Palace official said that another factor that will guide the decision of the IATF is the data, particularly the case doubling rate, mortality rate, and critical care capacity.

"Of course it's data that will guide the IATF to decide what its recommendations to Congress will be. The last time around, the recommendation was for GCQ albeit with localized or granular lockdowns," Roque said.

According to Roque, even though the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, the case doubling rate in Metro Manila is at nine days which qualifies the region under GCQ.

He likewise said that Metro Manila has not exhausted its critical care capacity because of Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega's One Hospital Command which refers patients to hospitals with more capacity.

"He (Vega) operates all hospitals in Metro Manila as if it were one entity, referring to X hospitals if Y hospital is not available because of bed unavailability. That's the important thing to underscore," he said.

President Duterte has placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under MECQ for 15 days after the medical community requested a "timeout." However, on Monday, he expressed he was not keen on extending the lockdown due to lack of funds to help those whose movements are limited by the lockdown.

"I'm telling the doctors, much as I would want, really, to give in to your demands, especially in the matter of lockdown. I want it because I do not want the contamination to continue. It's a continuing thing," he said.

"The problem is the funds are already depleted. Kailangan nating magtrabaho yung iba (We need the people to work)," he added.