The Duterte coronavirus task force has taken a new step to try to arrest the spread of COVID-19 – assign Cabinet members to monitor specific Metro Manila cities and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.
These areas were reverted into lockdown or modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) by President Rodrigo Duterte from August 4 to 18 after medical frontliners rang the alarm bells on rising cases and lapses in the government's pandemic response.
The assignments are the task force's new way to "provide stronger support to local government units with areas identified with high community transmission," according to Resolution No. 62 of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
The resolution spells out the assignments. They are as follows:
The officials are ordered to "strictly monitor" their assigned city's or province's health system performance, critical care capacity, and ensure "stringent compliance" to surveillance, isolation, and treatment protocols.
This latest step taken by the task force comes a week before the MECQ in Metro Manila and the 4 Luzon provinces expires.
Malacañang has said it is "highly unlikely" that the MECQ will be extended, fueling expectations that these areas will be placed again under the looser general community quarantine (GCQ).
But Presidential Spokesperson Roque, who is also task force spokesperson, has said any GCQ declaration will include the implementation of "localized, granular" lockdowns.
This means MECQ or ECQ-like conditions may persist in specific barangays or localities within cities or provinces with high transmission rates, even if the rest of the city or province is under a looser quarantine classification.
Experts and medical professionals have warned that the two-week MECQ may not be enough to significantly lower infections. But Duterte himself has said his government can't afford an MECQ extension, claiming a lack of funds for emergency assistance to affected workers and low-income families.
Assigning Cabinet members to oversee efforts in specific areas is something the Duterte government has done before. The Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security or CORDS is a system started by Malacañang in 2019 where Cabinet members are asked to oversee a region's development and security.
This system has been used by past Philippine presidents like Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.