A total of P13.1 billion worth of cash assistance that will be distributed to about 10.7 million Metro Manila residents affected by the COVID-19 lockdown will be taken from the savings of all government agencies, Malacañang said Tuesday.
The announcement followed President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval Monday of financial aid to people affected by the implementation of the most restrictive enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said local government units can manually distribute the cash assistance to ECQ areas due to the limited time provided.
As recommended by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, financial assistance to the National Capital Region for the period Aug. 6 to 20 can be distributed personally, although digital transaction is still an option.
The country could still envision a “good” Christmas if the Delta variant of the coronavirus will be controlled, professors from independent monitoring group OCTA Research said Tuesday.
The “ber” months will also be good for the country’s businesses if the Delta variant is managed early, they added during a forum hosted by the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII).
“In the great scheme of things, because we started vaccination already, at least in the NCR, we can envision a good Christmas this year. Let’s just control Delta,” University of the Philippines Political Science professor Ranjit Rye said.
Rye said that the two-week lockdown implementation in the NCR will save the fourth quarter of the year from economic loss and deaths.
In an online briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said qualified beneficiaries residing in Metro Manila will receive P1,000 per person, or a maximum of P4,000 per family.
“While it is not easy to impose a lockdown, the government will somehow grant financial aid,” Roque said in Filipino. “Where will we get this? This will be taken from the savings of all government agencies.”
Funding sources for areas placed under ECQ have already been identified through Administrative Order 41, signed on May 4, Roque said.
AO 41 provides that the savings of state departments, agencies, bureaus, and offices will be used for the provision of emergency subsidies to low-income households and disadvantaged workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Metro Manila will be placed under ECQ from Aug. 6 to 20 to arrest the spread of the more contagious Delta Covid-19 variant of COVID-19.
In case local governments of Metro Manila need additional funds, the government will tap the “windfall” collected by the Bureau of Treasury, Roque said.
There will be longer curfew hours and stricter border control across Metro Manila during the two-week implementation of ECQ.
Metro Manila mayors have agreed to impose a uniform 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew.
Quarantine passes will also be issued to ensure the public’s access to essential goods and unhampered service of health workers and other essential personnel.
DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said face-to-face distribution of cash assistance had worked several months ago.
Dumlao said the digital payment system would need information from beneficiaries, but some of them do not have smartphones.
To speed up the distribution of aid, the rollout will be done manually, with the promise that facilitators will observe basic health protocols during the distribution.
Police, meanwhile, will strictly enforce strict border control, curfew hours, and liquor bans in cities that have them during the two-week ECQ period.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has already tasked the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to enforce curfew hours and the liquor ban particularly in densely populated communities to prevent mass gatherings, a major cause in the spread COVID-19.
“Strict border control and the longer curfew hours are but some of the necessary interventions to prevent the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19,” Eleazar said.
Eleazar urged the public to strictly follow minimum public health safety standards and quarantine protocols to prevent the spread of the more infectious Delta variant.
The Department of Transportation said the current supply and capacity of the public transport system would remain unchanged by the ECQ.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the latest omnibus guidelines approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) allow the continued operation of public transportation, at the capacity and supply as recommended by the Department of Transportation.
Tugade, however, said that only authorized persons outside residence (APORs) as identified by the IATF will be accommodated by public transport services.
“Restrictions will be applied on passengers. There will be stricter enforcement to ensure that only APORs are permitted to use public transport, as mandated by the IATF,” Tugade said.
“APORs are reminded to be ready to present to transport marshals identification cards issued by the IATF or other documents or IDs as proof that they are authorized to travel,” Tugade added.
During the ECQ, public transportation, and all other modes of transportation will strictly observe the prescribed physical distancing and sanitary measures at all times.
During the enforcement of the ECQ in the National Capital Region, public utility vehicles, such as buses and jeepneys, are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity on a “one-seat-apart” setup. Standing passengers will not be allowed, and only one passenger will be allowed at the driver’s row.
Motorcycle taxi services and Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) operations are allowed during the ECQ period.
The use of active transport, such as bicycles and electric scooters, is being encouraged.
For tricycles, passenger load shall not exceed one passenger in the side-car. Further, the operations of tricycles shall be approved by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Local Government Units (LGUs) in compliance with the existing policies on its operational limitations.
All trains of the Philippine National Railways, LRT-1, LRT-2, and the MRT-3 will be deployed during the ECQ period.
Tugade said all trains will have transport marshals to enforce health protocols and to identify APORs. Trains will also be disinfected after every loop.
Passengers showing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board trains. Temperature checks will be done at station entrances.
Meanwhile, domestic flights and sea travel in the NCR will also continue during the ECQ, subject to community quarantine restrictions of the destinations.
Passengers are advised to inquire with their airlines or shipping lines before heading to the ports.
Also on Tuesday:
* The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said it is again suspending disconnection activities in Mero Manila from Aug. 6 to 20 in consideration of the challenges faced by its more than 7 million customers brought about by the new lockdown. Meralco said in a statement it will also suspend disconnection activities in the province of Laguna from Aug. 1 to 15.
* The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said voter registration in Metro Manila will be suspended once the ECQ begins on Aug. 6. In a Twitter post, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez encouraged the public to register in the remaining days before the start of the ECQ. Jimenez said the number of new voters now stands at 4.6 million.
* The Bureau of Immigration said it will again operate with skeleton workforces and on shortened working hours when the region is placed ECQ on Aug. 6. In an advisory, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the new work scheme follows President Rodrigo’s directive to place Metro Manila under an ECQ.
* House leaders led by Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez said the choice of the Philippine National Police as the implementer of the lockdown and the decision to provide cash assistance to those affected by the ECQ were steps in the right direction.
* Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles called on the national government to reconsider the stricter border controls as checkpoints become chokepoints, with large numbers of people gathering in one area, creating the possibility of super spreader events. With Kristine Agustin and Antoinette Capuz
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