'Ayuda' for proposed ECQ in Metro Manila not feasible, says Roque

Malacañang said the government cannot meet the condition of Metro Manila mayors to have cash assistance or "ayuda" or cash aid for the proposed shift of the National Capital Region (NCR) to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as there were not enough funds for it.

File photo of Manila residents gathering at the Recoletos Street gate of Manila High School in Intramuros, Manila, on Friday, June 18, 2021, to claim their financial assistance under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Social Amelioration Program (SAP). (Joe Priela)

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after the Metro Manila Council (MMC) expressed willingness to place the NCR under ECQ for two weeks as long as there would be cash assistance that would be given to its residents.

In his press briefing on Thursday, July 29, Roque said the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would meet to discuss the recommendation of the Metro Manila mayors but also addressed the elephant in the room.

"Ang sabi nila okay mag-ECQ sa kanila basta may ayuda. Ang issue po, meron ba ho talaga tayong maibibigay na ayuda (They said they were fine going to ECQ as long as there will be cash aid. But the issue, do we have money for that)?" he said.

"Complete closure of the economy, mawawalan ng trabaho, and ang katotohanan po hindi ko po alam kung meron tayong pang-ayuda para sa another malawakang lockdown (people are bound to lose jobs and the reality is I don't know if we have enough funds for cash aid for another extensive lockdown)," he added.

Despite this, Roque said the IATF will probably heed the call of the mayors if there was really a need to place NCR under ECQ.

"Kung talagang kinakailangan, hahanap at hahanap tayo. Pero sang-ayon naman po sa ating criteria na wala pa po tayo sa moderate risk (If it is necessary to declare ECQ, we will look for the funds. But based on our criteria, we are not even at moderate risk yet)," he said.

"Ganoon pa man, palagi po nating pinakikinggan ang ating mga alkalde dahil sila po ang magpapatupad ng ating mga polisiya. Kaya nga po ngayong hapon, papakinggan ng ating IATF ang mga alkalde (Even so, we always listen to the mayors because they are the ones implementing our policies that's why this afternoon, the IATF will listen to what they have to say)," he added.

According to Roque, the IATF was not able to discuss this recommendation of Metro Manila mayors with President Duterte on Wednesday evening because of technical issues on the part of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos.

"Noong nagsasalita po noong una si Chairman Abalos, wala po siyang sounds so hindi po namin narinig ang sinabi ni Chairman Abalos is something to the effect na handa silang mag-ECQ (When Chairman Abalos was speaking, he had no sounds so we did not hear that he was saying something to the effect that they were ready for ECQ)," he said.

Meanwhile, Roque has assured residents of Iloilo City, Iloilo Province, Cagayan de Oro City, and Gingoog City that they will be given cash aid worth P1,000 or up to P4,000 per family while they are under ECQ.

On July 28, President Duterte approved keeping Metro Manila under the general community quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions from August 1 to 15, 2021 due to the rising cases of COVID-19 amid the threat of the more contagious Delta variant.

So far, the country has reported 119 cases of the dreaded strain.