A facepalm moment on Wednesday, July 28, prevented President Rodrigo Duterte from receiving a proposal to put Metro Manila on hard lockdown, seen to stop the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.
Benhur Abalos, chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and coordinator of all Metro Manila mayors, did not realize he was muted on Zoom when he was proposing this to Duterte.
Abalos was part of Duterte’s meeting on Wednesday with the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases – televised with the title “Talk to the People” – to discuss measures against the Delta variant, which has ravaged other countries in Southeast Asia.
“Kahapon, tinapos namin ito, nagpunta ako sa ‘Talk to the People’ ng Presidente, hinarap ko. Ang problema ko mali, wala pala akong volume. Walang lumabas. Ang haba ko nag-present, wala palang volume na lumabas sa bibig ko,” said Abalos in a press conference on Thursday, July 29.
(We finished the meeting yesterday, then I went to the ‘Talk to the People’ event of the President. My problem was I was on mute. I presented for a long time but my microphone had no volume.)
Abalos was supposed to report the outcome of the discussions by Metro Manila mayors earlier on Wednesday – among them a recommendation to revert to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the strictest form of lockdown against COVID-19.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed Wednesday night’s meeting with the President failed to discuss that proposal.
“Ako na po ang nagsabi kay Presidente, ‘Pakinggan po natin si Chairman Abalos.’ Eh noong nagsasalita noong una si Chairman Abalos, wala po siyang sounds,” Roque said. (I told the President, let’s listen to Chairman Abalos. But when Abalos started speaking, he was on mute.)
Defending himself, Abalos added that Duterte’s meeting with the IATF on Wednesday night was really meant to take into consideration what was discussed by the IATF earlier in the week.
“Iyong kahapon, for the President na iyon, tapos na iyong IATF meeting. Parang prinesenta na lang nila (When we met with the president, the IATF meeting was already over, and they just presented to the president),” he said. “From the technical working group, it goes to the IATF. And the IATF, it’s all recommendatory to the president.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Metro Manila mayors unanimously agreed to propose a two-week ECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR) due to the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant, but only if social amelioration funds were available for their poorest constituents.
If supplemental aid were not available, Abalos said he is in favor of keeping the classification of GCQ with heightened restrictions, “but with more restrictions.”
“Let’s restrict mobility. Let’s do GCQ with heightened restrictions and let us put more restrictions. We must know the character of this. But the ideal is really, to have, an ECQ for two weeks, depending if the funds of the government are available,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Among the curbs he proposed include barring dine-in operations in restaurants, and increasing work-from-home operations.
Abalos said he was set to meet with the IATF at 2 pm on Thursday to present the MMC’s recommendations.
More vaccine supply
The MMC also proposed allotting four million vaccine doses to Metro Manila, which the mayors committed to administer within two weeks.
“Approximately, we’ll be having 41% of the population with two [vaccine] jabs,” he said.
Abalos pushed back when asked whether that would be unfair to other regions.
“Iyong mga highly urbanized [areas] and centers of transportation with international airports… you must protect these areas kasi dito nanggagaling ang variants,” he said. (Highly urbanized areas and centers of transportation with international airports must be protected because these are the entry points of the variant.)
Metro Manila is seeing a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases, and experts are worried of a repeat scenario in March 2021, when the urban crawl of 14 million people was put on lockdown due to delayed response of containing the virus. – Rappler.com