NCR, four provinces' reversion to MECQ a
President Rodrigo Duterte's re-imposition of stricter quarantine measure in Metro Manila and nearby provinces was a "compromise" as the economy could no longer afford extended lockdown, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
In a virtual press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque acknowledged that the second quarter gross domestic product, which is set to be released on August 6, could further shrink. The Philippine first quarter GDP declined by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, the first contraction since the fourth quarter of 1998.
"I admit, the economy can no longer afford a lockdown," Roque said in response to a proposal by a professor at the University of the Philippines that the re-imposition of MECQ in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal be at least for a month to flatten the curve of coronavirus disease cases in the country.
"The economy will really suffer if we will have another lockdown. We are at the point that we may slowdown the spread of COVID-19, but while there's no work, how can the ordinary people live," he said.
He admitted that during the two-week MECQ, there is no way to provide assistance to the people affected because there is no law passed by Congress.
Roque expressed hope that cash aid could be included in the Bayanihan 2 bill.
President Rodrigo Duterte has reverted the National Capital Region and the four nearby provinces MECQ to give the healthcare workers a break after months of exhaustion in attending to COVID-19 patients and to slow down the spread of the virus. The various medical organizations asked Duterte to reimpose a lockdown for two weeks.
Under MECQ, many industries are ordered not to operate and public transportation is also not allowed.
"I will lie if I'll say that there will be no negative impact (on the economy) during the two-week (MECQ), because 67 percent of our GDP is from Metro Manila and Region IV-A, including Cavite, Rizal and Laguna which are also under lockdown now," Roque said.
But he expressed hope that the 15-day MECQ, which started Tuesday, August 4, until August 18, will have minimal impact on the economy.
Asked why Duterte did not place Metro Manila and surrounding provinces under ECQ, the strictest quarantine protocol, Roque said, "it's a compromise, because we really cannot afford a complete lockdown and it is important to open at least part of our economy."
"But by and large, this is still a lockdown, that's why let us not be mistaken," he said, noting that only about 30 percent of the economy is open under MECQ.
"So, I think it's a compromise, it is again reflecting the delicate balance between health and economy...that's how complex and controversial this decision," he stressed.
He reiterated the government's call to practice minimum health standards, such as wearing of mask, physical distancing, frequent washing of hands and to stay home. Celerina Monte/DMS