Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said he would rather play the ‘conservative card’ and side with a continuing lockdown if no clear evidence of a solution to the virus is in sight.
“Better safe than sorry!” stressed Sotto when sought for his comment regarding President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he would lift the Luzon-wide lockdown if the country can get an antibody treatment for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Reacting to the same issue, Senator Imee Marcos said she suspects only a partial easing may be allowed at the end of the month.
She cited the doctors’ warning of a second wave of infection which had occurred in some countries, sometimes more virulent than first infections.
“Hence we should expect only critical businesses will be allowed to fully open- medical production, importation and distribution, food chain sectors, essential transport , communication, general services and maintenance,” said Marcos.
She said other industries may only be partially commenced with just a skeletal work force.
“Secondly, I think local executives, particularly in COVID-free zones in Northern Luzon & elsewhere in the island provinces, should be given much wider discretion in their implementation of ECQ & its lifting,” said Marcos.
While the exponential increase of infection in the National Capital Region (NCR) may require close government regulation, Marcos noted that the less-afflicted provinces should be allowed a measure of self- determination, so that they may even provide NCR’s food, personnel & other requirements.
“Thirdly, for over a month now, I have been urging that government initiate a much bigger & more comprehensive economic package, encompassing immediate health and food security, income replacement for 3 to 6 months, and support for businesses especially hard- hit industries,” she said.
She said the initial roll- out of the social amelioration payments despite government’s good intentions was simply too meager to be truly helpful or even fair to all sectors.
The government, she emphasized, must provide health care, as well as cash to the poor and aid to business, all at the same time and in meaningful amounts to be effective.
“We cannot once again give too little too late to too few,” she added.
Senator Joel Villanueva said if the rate of infection of COVID-19 is still increasing that will result in many more deaths, he warned that easing the lockdown might lead to another longer lockdown which will damage the economy even more.
Congress earlier passed the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” to provide cash aid for some 18 million families who may have lost their income during the two-month work stoppage due to Luzon’s enhanced community quarantine.
Under the law, each beneficiary will receive a month stipend of P5,000 to P8,000 for 2 months to ensure that Filipinos will not starve and that the economy will not slow down.
Other government agencies have also provided relief packages to avoid businesses from declaring bankruptcy due to the lack of income for 2 months.
The government has been trying to come up with more solutions to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus, as health officials said COVID-19 cases in the country are expected to increase when the mass testing program begins next week.
Villanueva noted that urgency is the name of the game in this most challenging time.
“Right now, we should prioritize area targeting for assistance distribution instead of household /individual targeting,” he said.
Meanwhile, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III inspected the Ninoy Aquino Stadium that will be designated as a quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients. As of date 112 bed units were properly installed.
“The Department of Health is committed in providing the Filipino people with appropriate health care services amid the COVID-19 Health Situation,” said Duque.
He also said they have a DOH team currently assessing the Marikina laboratory.
“Dr. Mark Leviste’s team is currently onsite. This is to dispel claims that DOH is not coordinating,” he added./Stacy Ang