MANILA – Several senators on Friday supported President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to extend the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas in the country until May 15.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the ECQ extension in high-risk areas buys the government time to boost its testing capabilities to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“We are winning the war.. we are slowly flattening the curve. Lifting it (ECQ) prematurely, our efforts might go to waste and I think this is the most conservative and the most prudent decision,” he said in a televised interview.
He said that easing the ECQ over low-risk areas or provinces with zero Covid-19 cases would now allow small and medium businesses to interact slowly and do business in these areas.
“These small businesses can thrive and make the local economy work, at least may income ang mga kababayan natin doon at hindi sila aasa sa ayuda ng gobyerno (our countrymen in those areas would have income and not depend on government assistance),” Gatchalian said.
Senator Sonny Angara said Duterte was just exercising the “required caution and diligence” of a good father of a family.
“The decision was based on consultations with several experts and department heads based on the data on cases as well as the experience of other countries I’m sure. Countries which relaxed their quarantines too early saw early gains being erased by virus outbreaks,” he said in a statement.
He said he is hoping that the government, hopefully, aided by media, would advise local government units (LGUs), especially barangay officials, on the dos and don’ts of the general community quarantine (GCQ).
“Otherwise baka happy-happy ulit and magkahawaan (people might become too relaxed and the virus will spread). Important to remember that we are only as strong as our weakest links,” Angara said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said that it cannot be denied that the ECQ has contributed to minimizing the spread of the virus, despite some missteps and shortcomings of some government agencies.
“That said, an extension is necessary for highly infected areas as identified by the President to sustain social distancing as an indispensable aspect of our country’s fight against Covid-19,” he said in a separate statement.
“Unfortunately, the virus dictates when to end the lockdown, not the other way around. It doesn’t mean though that government will not adopt other measures to save our economy from imminent recession,” he added.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, on the other hand, said that President Duterte’s decision “was expected,” and urged the government to prepare for mass testing, isolation, and treatment, as well as to invest more on health care infrastructure.
“We will eventually have to allow people to get back to work little by little,” he said.
Senator Grace Poe said extending the ECQ in high-risk areas is a “cautious and calculated step” that, at the very least, buys the country more time.
“We have to be discerning on our next steps so as not to squander whatever gains we have achieved,” she said.
She also urged concerned agencies to work double-time so that all forms of assistance reach target families who are in need.
“We also ask the police, military, and local government unit personnel to exercise the highest degree of restraint as they enforce the lockdown,” she said.
Poe urged Filipinos in high-risk areas to obey ECQ protocols and stay at home for their own safety.
“By adhering to a well-thought-out and data-based plan, together, we will inch closer to minimizing the pandemic and breathing life once again into our communities and the economy,” she said. (PNA)