Duterte's latest taped address did not explain decision to keep NCR under MECQ

While many were taken aback by the sudden decision of the government to keep the National Capital Region (NCR) under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for another week, President Duterte's most recent pre-recorded public address did not give any clarity as to why the pandemic task force ditched its earlier recommendation to lower the region's quarantine level.

File photo of President Duterte presiding over a meeting with core members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in Malacañang on August 2, 2021. (Malacañang)

The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases had recommended on Monday, Sept. 6, to place NCR or Metro Manila under the normal general community quarantine (GCQ) from Sept. 8 to 30 while the government pilots the granular lockdown scheme in the region.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque has said that the guidelines for this new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) quarantine scheme would be released by Sept. 7. However, the public was shocked by the subsequent announcement that the IATF had decided to keep Metro Manila under MECQ until Sept. 15 or when the new granular lockdown scheme is implemented-- whichever will come first.

The sudden announcement was a blow to many, particularly business owners who started meeting and hiring their staff back, aside from buying goods needed to prepare for the resumption of their businesses the next day. This was on top of other practical tasks in preparation for the GCQ, like cleaning the establishment.

However, the latest episode of President Duterte's "Talk to the People" which ran for two hours on Wednesday morning, Sept. 8, wrapped up without any explanation behind the pronouncement of the IATF.

Instead, President Duterte mentioned how difficult it was for the government to keep the balance between saving the lives of the people and keeping the economy afloat.

"Kung sa health naman natin ilagay lahat ang resources natin, naka-focus tayo diyan, babagsak itong ekonomiya natin, babagsak ang Pilipinas (If we pour all our resources to health, our economy will plummet and so will the Philippines)," he said.

"At kung marami namang patay, kung nandito sa ekonomiya lang, eh babagsak rin ang Pilipinas, masisira tayo (And if many people will die because we focused on the economy, the country will also fall)," he added.

The President spent some time discussing his drug war, focusing on the recent drug bust in Zambales and Bataan that resulted to the confiscation of illegal drugs worth P3.4 billion and the deaths of four Chinese suspects.

Duterte apologized to the countries whose nationals died in his drug war, saying nobody wanted it to happen and that there are laws to be followed. He likewise reminded Filipinos abroad that he will not lift a finger to help them if they get caught for drug charges.

What took the biggest chunk of the two-hour address was the President's hitting the senate for their investigation on the government's purchase of alleged overpriced COVID-19 supplies last year. In particular, he went after Senator Richard Gordon and the supposed irregularities in the Philippine Red Cross.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque recycled his explanation that the goods that the government bought cannot be called "overpriced" since the previous administration bought the same items for at least P3,500 each.

Almost all other Cabinet members who were present during the meeting touched on the same topic, with the exception of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua who recapped the initiatives and accomplishments of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) under the five-year Duterte administration.

Meanwhile, the President, in his address, assumed responsibility for the decision to keep the wearing of face shields mandatory both indoors and outdoors. He explained that he decided to keep the measure despite knowing that other countries were not requiring face shields because he got scared of the Delta variant.

Duterte ended his address by announcing that the televised meeting will now be airing two episodes per week.