Pasig City will "definitely" not shut down establishments selling essentials even as the local government continues to strictly implement the COVID-19 stay-at-home policy for residents, Mayor Vico Sotto said Wednesday.
"Definitely we will not shut down establishments that are selling food and other necessary supplies. Mas magiging magulo 'yun. That will cause a lot of social unrest and we can't have people starving in their homes," Sotto said in a virtual press briefing hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
Asked about a "martial law-type" enforcement, he said there is no military presence in the city so far but welcomed the possibility if it would help the local government ensure residents are staying at home.
"If stricter measures and even military presence would come, not necessarily to make arrests, but just to show people that we're serious about this, then I think we should keep an open mind, even if initially of course no one wants that. But again... I think we should be careful when we use the term 'martial law'. Again what does it really mean?" he said.
The mayor said the local government is working on a supplemental social amelioration program to aid thousands of families in need who were not listed in the national government's emergency subsidy initiative.
Sotto said they listed 206,000 low-income households in Pasig, but the Department of Social Welfare and Development approved only 93,000 households for the Social Amelioration Program.
Of the 93,000 families included in the national program, almost 50% have been given financial assistance, and Sotto said the rest will be completed in less than a week.
He said he will defer to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on whether or not to lift the current Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, which is scheduled to last until April 30.
As far as Pasig is concerned, he said it "might be a little bit premature" to lift the quarantine given the increasing number of cases in the city even while he acknowledged the need to balance it with the economy.
He said the local government is planning for a local economic stimulus package to ensure its impact to their economy is "as minimal as possible."
Pasig has ramped up its testing, conducting around 350 tests a day, including both PCR-based and rapid tests, the mayor said, estimating they can complete their backlog of testing of suspected and probable cases by Wednesday or Thursday.
The city has 266 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Sotto said. —KG, GMA News