President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to address the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will run until April 13.
Duterte made the announcement in a televised address from Malacañang.
“Upon further study of worldwide trends and measures and the need for extreme caution during such times as these, I have come to the conclusion that stricter measures are necessary,” he said.
Duterte cited the spread of the virus in several areas in the country. The Philippines has reported 142 cases, including 12 deaths, as of Monday.
“We do not have the luxury of time to wait if there is really such a connection of a contagion somewhere. I cannot go into a guessing game. I have to act,” he said.
The President maintained that the quarantine measures taken by government are not tantamount to martial law.
“This is not martial law,” he said. “Huwag kayong matakot. Walang magdi-display ng baril diyan except ‘yung mga members ng Armed Forces o police.”
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President is empowered to declare martial law in times of invasion and rebellion when the public safety requires it.
Duterte used this power in quelling rebellion in Mindanao by extremist groups accused of plotting a caliphate for international terror group ISIS.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo in the afternoon already announced that Duterte declared an “enhanced community quarantine”.
“PRRD [Duterte] just announced an enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a message to reporters, as Duterte met with several government officials at the presidential palace to discuss developments on the COVID-19 situation in the country.
Based on the guidelines released by the Palace last Saturday, the government may implement an enhanced community quarantine.
Under this condition, strict home quarantine will be implemented in all households, transportation will be suspended, provision for food and essential health services will be regulated and the presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures will be heightened.
The Philippines has so far recorded 140 COVID-19 cases, including 12 deaths, according to the Department of Health.
Duterte's decision comes after Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Panelo proposed for a total lockdown of Metro Manila just two days into the implementation of a general community quarantine of the region.
“This is a matter of national survival, we have to be resigned to that fact. This is a matter of life and death. The only way to stop this is for us to help ourselves,” Panelo told reporters.
On Monday morning, however, some commuters who had to go to their workplace were seen crowding public utility vehicle terminals and train stations despite reminders to observe social distancing or being at least one meter away from another person.
Curfews ordinances were also passed by various local government units to prevent individuals from roaming around the metro at night amid the threat of COVID-19.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Minority Leader Benny Abante earlier pushed for the expansion of the community lockdown to the Greater Manila Area as a step forward in containing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
"I'm very supportive na gawing Mega Metro Manila na or Greater Metro Manila yung community quarantine and everyday to be a little bit more strict," Cayetano said a press conference on Monday.
According to Cayetano, while a community quarantine has been imposed in the National Capital Region and social distancing has been encouraged, they might be quite difficult to implement given the huge volume of people in the metro.
"First day of the week ito ha, so kung may mga adjustments, it will be done. But I'm hoping Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, bantayan yung nangyayari sa Metro Manila so that you can learn from our mistakes and then make the adjustments," he said. -with a report from Erwin Colcol/KBK/NB, GMA News