'We need to be bold': Provinces make difficult decisions on 1st day of GCQ
PAMPANGA, Philippines (UPDATED) – With zero coronavirus cases, Aurora province in Central Luzon was among the local government units ordered by the national government's task force on coronavirus to shift from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to a more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) starting Friday, May 1.
It did not – not on Friday, at least. The province, surrounded by localities with a high number of cases, was biding its time. (READ: Explainer: What happens under enhanced community quarantine?)
On the eve of May 1, Governor Gerardo Noveras issued an executive order directing the continued province-wide implementation of ECQ measures despite a reminder from the national government that LGUs cannot unilaterally impose lockdowns without its approval.
The decision drew mixed reactions from residents. There were netizens who backed the governor, but there were others who expressed concerns about their livelihood, especially those who said they were not beneficiaries of the government's emergency subsidy program.
Waiting for final GCQ guidelines
Ilocos Norte in Northern Luzon, which recorded only 3 cases, also put the implementation of GCQ on hold. "Ilocos Norte will remain under enhanced community quarantine until the response from Regional IATF regarding the guidelines of modified GCQ is received," the announcement on the province's official Facebook page read.
Aurora cited the same reason. Noveras said he was still waiting for the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to issue guidelines on how to implement the GCQ.
The guidelines were released late Friday afternoon. Ilocos Norte has since deleted its announcement on Facebook while Aurora announced the imposition of GCQ the following day, May 2.
Pending requests to extend ECQs
Aurora and Ilocos Norte weren't the only provinces that didn't want to immediately lift their ECQs. Several provinces even asked the government body to extend ECQs in their localities, concerned that they were not ready to open up and wary that easing lockdowns would result in more cases.
The request of Bacolod City in Western Visayas was approved on April 30. The request of Albay in Bicol region was approved on Friday night, May 1, on the same day it recorded 3 new cases. Before its request was granted, Albay announced it would keep its borders closed.
More provinces are waiting for IATF to act on their requests. La Union in Northern Luzon announced it was going to follow the IATF decision to implement GCQ pending action on its request to extend its ECQ. (READ: 'Keep the lockdown': Anxiety sweeps provinces as coronavirus quarantines ease)
Many netizens protested the provincial government's decision, which was posted on its Facebook page.
'We need to be bold'
Lanao del Sur, including the Islamic City of Marawi, in Central Mindanao decided to extend their ECQs pending the IATF decision.
"We need to be bold and act on this health emergency in our locality especially if we still have active cases of COVID-19," said Bangsamoro Parliament member Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur IATF.
While Lanao del Sur recorded only 9 cases, Adiong expressed concern that there might be more undetected cases due to poor testing.
Adiong said the decision was based on the recommendation of the local IATF. The joint memorandum circular was signed by Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr and Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra.
The rest of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) transitioned to GCQ but decided to extend the ban on religious gatherings as Muslims observed Ramadan. "The Bangsamoro Regional Darul Ifta has not lifted the temporary suspension of congressional prayers and other forms of religious gatherings," BARMM said in a statement.
The national government later changed its mind about religious gatherings and banned them again.
The municipality of San Jose in Occidental Mindoro also extended its ECQ, based on the recommendation of local stakeholders. Occidental Mindoro Governor Eduardo Gadiano signed an executive order to keep the town under ECQ.
“Despite the fact that the whole province of Occidental Mindoro is placed under GCQ, there is an urgent need for San Jose to be continuously under the ECQ considering that it has recorded a total of 4 confirmed cases already,” said Gadiano.
Gadiano said there were healthcare workers who were still waiting for the results of their tests, too. – Rappler.com