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MANILA, Philippines – The military will not be involved in defining the looming lockdown of Metro Manila over the novel coronavirus, and will only help the police in enforcing it, the country’s national defense chief said on Friday, March 13.
This, as members of the Cabinet rush to draft guidelines to define the parameters of the “community quarantine” President Rodrigo Duterte ordered over the capital region on Thursday night, March 12.
Duterte had said he would rely on the police and military to enforce the “lockdown,” and urged the public to “just obey them.”
On Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarified that “the military will not be involved in the determination of the guidelines to enforce the restricted movement. It is the PNP (Philippine National Police). The military will just be in the support role as they do not have police powers.”
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) shall assist the PNP in implementing the community quarantine in certain areas, and will help ensure the availability of units and personnel, critical logistics and supplies, as well as emergency medical teams, among others,” Lorenzana said in a statement.
Throughout the lockdown, the Department of National Defense (DND) will maintain a “skeletal civilian workforce” to operate its frontline services and other “critical office functions.”
The DND ordered its civilian bureaus – the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, the Office of Civil Defense, the National Defense College, and the Government Arsenal – to maintain workforces to make sure frontline and essential services continue, such as the processing of veterans’ claims, and production of ammunition and other combat materiel.
In an earlier statement, the AFP said it was “ready to assist” the PNP in enforcing the lockdown.
“Our different units were earlier directed to prepare their contingency measures to make this possible without compromising our peace and security operations,” said AFP chief of staff General Felimon Santos Jr.
“This includes the availability of units and personnel, emergency medical teams, availability of critical logistics and supplies, and preparation of personal protective equipment for soldiers and other personnel who will be tapped to assist the PNP,” he added.
AFP Joint Task Force National Capital Region spokesperson 1st Lieutenant Arianne Bichara said plans were on hand and details were “being ironed out” for implementing the lockdown.
The unit is requesting additional personal protective equipment for troops waiting to be deployed, Bichara added.
The “community quarantine” is expected to be enforced for a month, from March 15 to April 15, but it may be lifted anytime if it is no longer needed, the government said.
Travel to and from Metro Manila will be restricted, including domestic and international flights. Classes are suspended, while work in public and private offices are to drawdown to require a minimal workforce. – Rappler.com