President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he is still sees the need to reopen the economy as Filipinos would go hungry if he extends further the implementation of strict quarantine protocols in the country.
During the inauguration of the newly constructed Port Operations Building at the Port of Dumaguete in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Duterte said he has to make a tough decision to help Filipinos cope with the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
He said he has no choice but to reopen the Philippine economy, stressing that the country could not afford to be on strict mode “forever”.
“Now, this is the devil and the deep blue sea tayo (we are between the devil and the deep blue sea). But I have to reopen the economy. I’ve given a timetable of just weeks, we cannot forever be in the strict protocols because we have to open the economy. People are hungry, people have to work, to eat to survive,” Duterte said.
The government’s plans to further reopen the country’s economy and ease restrictions are seen to be effective ways to help Filipinos recover from the pandemic, especially those who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
On March 4, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles floated the possibility that the entire Philippines might be placed under the least restrictive modified general community quarantine by April since the country is expected to receive more than two million Covid-19 vaccines that month.
Duterte, however, said he is still “in a quandary of what to do.”
He said he would further relax the quarantine measures in the country, once the number of Filipinos who have been inoculated with Covid-19 vaccines reaches one million.
“I said the economy must be opened in a short while,” he said. “Kung makita ko na umabot na ng milyon ang vaccinated, probably, especially around towns and big cities, okay na (When one million Filipinos have already been vaccinated, especially around towns and big cities, that’s already fine with me).”
The President also appealed for public cooperation to ensure the successful containment of Covid-19 in the country.
“It is only when everyone’s cooperation that the nation can effectively contain the spread of Covid-19 and triumph against the pandemic. Through (these) concerted efforts, I am confident that we will emerge as (a) strong nation,” he said.
Duterte also reiterated that Filipinos still need to observe strict health protocols, such as wearing face shield and face mask.
He said face masks and face shields are sufficient gadgets to protect the public against Covid-19.