President Rodrigo Duterte is studying the proposal of placing the entire country under the most lenient modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) starting March 1, 2021 to address the rise in hunger and poverty, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua proposed a shift to MGCQ status to balance health and economic concerns in a televised meeting with Duterte and other top officials on Monday night.
Chua also proposed to gradually allow persons between five to 70-years old out of their houses as part of moves to further reopen the economy. Currently, only persons between 15 and 65 years old are permitted to leave their homes.
His recommendation includes the further expansion of public transportation from 50 percent to 75 percent subject to the observance of proper health protocols.
“The President is thoroughly studying this recommendation and he said he wants to bring this up during the Cabinet meeting on Feb. 22,” Roque said in a press briefing from Davao City.
Citing a study prepared by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Roque said prolonged lockdowns in the country caused 23.7 million more people to go hungry, 4.5 million more to fall into poverty, and 2.7 million to lose their jobs.
He said the study also showed that there were some 480,338 Filipinos dying due to non-coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) related causes.
To allay concerns over a possible spike in Covid-19 cases once quarantine statuses ease, Roque cited survey results released by OCTA Research Group which showed that 93 percent of 600 respondents from Metro Manila wear a face mask to curb the risk of getting infected with the virus.
“Because we can see that there are more Filipinos suffering due to non-Covid-related activities and because a survey conducted by OCTA showed that 93 percent of Filipinos wear face masks, perhaps it’s really time to save our citizens from hunger and poverty due to other causes not just Covid,” he said.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) earlier allowed persons as young as 10 years old to go out in public places with their parents in a bid to boost consumer spending and business activity.
However, Duterte recalled the order amid the threat of the new and more infectious coronavirus variant.
Metro Manila has been under general community quarantine (GCQ) since August last year. Other areas under GCQ are Cordillera Administrative Region, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao del Norte, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur.
The rest of the country has stayed under the least restrictive MGCQ this month.