Border control points on major thoroughfares going in and out of Metro Manila have been recalled on Tuesday, March 23, to ensure a smooth flow of traffic for workers and as a corrective measure to align with the concept of the National Capital Region+ Bubble that was implemented to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Under the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) resolution that created the NCR+ Bubble, there should be less restrictions on the movement of people inside the bubble that is composed of Metro Manila and its four adjacent provinces, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal.
But on Monday which was the first implementation of the NCR+ Bubble Concept, police forces in Metro Manila have set up Quarantine Control Points (QCPs) on all the major entry and exit points of the National Capital Region.
“The Quarantine Control Points should only be set up at the borders of the four provinces and not within the bubble,”said Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“There should be less restrictions for people inside the Bubble because they are considered as one big area. This is to ensure smooth access because workers of Metro Manila for instance live in these four adjacent provinces,” he added.
Based on Eleazar’s order, the QCPs should only be at the the boundaries of Bulacan, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija; boundaries of Rizal and Quezon province; boundaries of Laguna, Batangas and Quezon provinces; and the boundaries of Cavite and Batangas.
Eleazar stressed that QCPs within the bubble will only be allowed if they are in support of the QCPs in the boundaries of the four provinces in cases that the checkpoints are already creating monstrous traffic jams.
He added that checkpoints will also be allowed within the bubble if it is part of the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. uniform curfew implementation in Metro Manila, or in support of on-going pursuit operations against criminal elements.
“Checkpoints within the bubble are still necessary particularly during curfew hours. Beyond curfew period, they can observe, caution or accost those flagrantly violating health protocols but will no longer check motorists for movement restriction,” said Eleazar.
“Checkpoints are critical and important police interventions in case of dragnet operations if ever there are emergencies and hot pursuit operations,” he added.
On Monday, Eleazar and PLtGen Cesar Hawthorne Binag, Deputy Chief for Operations and concurrent commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, inspected different QCPs to check on the progress of implementation of the NCR+ Bubble.
During the inspections, Eleazar instructed the policemen manning and supervising the QCP to make sure that only Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs), including essential workers and those delivering essential goods, would be allowed to come inside and go out of the NCR+ Bubble.
For his part, Binag instructed the local police forces to ensure that minimum health safety standard protocols such as wearing of face masks and physical distancing are observed, especially those going inside the Bubble.
Eleazar, however, said that all the entry and exit points, especially small access roads, should also be guarded in order to achieve the real intent of the creation of the NCR+ Bubble.
“These access roads leading to and out of the NCR+ Bubble should also be watched. Our strict implementation to achieve the real intent of this bubble in the major thoroughfares will not be maximized if there are other access roads that would be unguarded,” said PLtGen Eleazar.
“So I have already directed the chiefs of police of these areas to coordinate with their respective Local Government Units down to the barangay level, to set up border control points in these access roads,” he added.
Eleazar explained that the NCR+ Bubble concept is meant to strike a balance between the need to revive the economy and in containing the spread of COVID-19 amid the upsurge of new cases in the past days.
All the areas inside the Bubble were placed under the General Community Quarantine starting March 22 to April 4.
“This bubble concept is new to us so adjustments and corrections are being made to improve its implementation,” said Eleazar.