MANILA – Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Monday said the reopening of malls under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) is a move to revive the economy amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and does not mean that people can freely roam around in these places.
“They don’t realize that MECQ is the same as ECQ only. We just allowed some businesses to open but on the restrictions to the people, it remains that only authorized persons to leave their residence and report to work but some are already going to the mall with the whole family so that is not yet allowed, only one person per family is authorized to buy food, to run errands under MECQ,” Año said in a television interview.
He already directed all local government units (LGUs) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to inspect all malls and talk to mall operators regarding the implementation of quarantine rules after reports that safe physical distancing measures were not observed in some malls that reopened on Saturday.
“It’s a combination of restrictions, impositions of LGUs, the law enforces and of course we need the cooperation of the mall management and owners, they have imposed what we call the minimum health standards or protocols, the number of people allowed inside the malls, they should observe that one person would occupy two square meters and they have to control of mall-goers and not allow anymore,” he stressed.
Over the weekend, some LGU officials and the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield (JTF CV Shield) inspected malls and warned their managers and owners of business closure if they fail to impose minimum health standards.
“Yesterday (Sunday), we saw a lot of good developments and I think the malls are doing good and they are able to impose these minimum health standards,” Año said.
Also on Monday, JTF CV Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar warned that the PNP would file appropriate cases against malls not following the health protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“We will facilitate the closure of these establishments and filing of necessary charges against them,” Eleazar said during his visit at the SM North Edsa and UP Town Center in Quezon City.
Eleazar assured that the police would keep on monitoring the compliance of malls.
All unit commanders were directed to coordinate with all the malls and similar establishments to warn them of closure if they don’t follow the protocols.
“Nagdadagdag tayo ng tropa na umiikot sa establishments na permitted na to operate [We are deploying additional personnel to roam around the establishments permitted to open],” Eleazar said.
Such deployment would serve as a deterrent for people to observe minimum health protocols.
He said that despite the easing of restrictions in many parts of the country, a total of 67,000 policemen would still be deployed to enforce lockdown guidelines.
Eleazar, meanwhile, appealed for self-restraint among motorists as the PNP-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) noted a sudden increase in the number of vehicles entering Metro Manila on Monday.
“Irespeto lang po sana natin ang ating mga manggagawa na siyang prayoridad ng ating pamahalaan para tulungang pasiglahin muli ang ating ekonomiya at mabigyan ng oportunidad muli na kumita at buhayin ang kanilang pamilya (Let us respect workers who are being prioritized by the government in order to revive the economy and give them the opportunity to make a living for their families),” he told reporters during his inspection of quarantine control points in major thoroughfares in Metro Manila on Monday.
This came after reports that some people are taking advantage of the government’s decision to ease some restrictions on quarantine rules that include the opening of business establishments like malls.
HPG director Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz said that since the strict implementation of stationary checkpoints would result in monstrous traffic jams, he had already directed his men to set mobile checkpoints and conduct random checking of vehicles.
“Their vehicles may not be checked in Quarantine Control Points but if my men found out that they are not allowed to go out or they are violating the physical distancing inside the vehicle during mobile checkpoint and random inspection, we will make sure that we will hold them accountable,” Cruz said.
Eleazar, meanwhile, appealed to companies not to resume operations if they could not provide shuttle service for their workers.
Earlier reports said workers had struggled to walk or ride bicycles, motorcycles, or private vehicles just to report to work as public transport remains suspended under the MECQ. (IA/PNA)