Residents ‘confused’ after Bacolod placed under MECQ

Marchel P. Espina
On the first of the modified enhanced community quarantine in Bacolod, residents find public utility vehicles still plying the roads

Residents of the “City of Smiles” woke up Tuesday, September 8, without a smile on their faces as Bacolod City was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) due to the rising number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases here.

The night before, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases recommending MECQ in Bacolod City from September 8 until September 30.

Under MECQ, residents are required to observe home quarantine, while mass gatherings are limited to 5 persons.

Public transportation was also suspended, while domestic flights and inter-island travel were not allowed.

As of September 7, Bacolod City saw a rise of COVID-19 cases through local transmission with 1,694, while infections from locally-stranded individuals and returning overseas Filipino workers were only 231.

The city has caseload of 1,925.

However, residents were confused as public utility vehicles continue to ply the roads on the supposed first day implementation of the MECQ status.

Mayor Evelio Leonardia has yet to issue an executive order on the implementation of the new protocol.

The mayor, in a video message, said that the top national IATF officials will be in the city on Wednesday, September 9.

COVID-19 Task Force chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr is expected to arrive here.

Leonardia said the only thing the city would do is implement the mandate of IATF.

He said there would be an inconvenience to the residents, and that adjustments would be made. “This is our tradeoff to contain the spread of the virus,” he added.

He said, “with caution and optimism, let’s face this problem squarely. We hope that with the help of these people, with their expertise, experience, and wisdom, we can all together benefit from this.”

Business leader Frank Carbon said they were shocked to wake up this morning that Bacolod was already placed in MECQ, stressing that some of the business establishments have already closed down due to the crisis.

“We slept last night, thinking about how we can improve our sales and encourage more customers. Then we woke up today, thinking we might lose our business,” Carbon, Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer, said.

He said that 90% of their customers and employees were highly dependent on public transportation, “if there is no movement, then there’s no business,” he added.

He said they were confused because the government allowed businesses to open, yet there was no public transportation.

He said the business community is more keen on implementing the granular lockdown so economic activities could continue. He also said that there should be a concrete plan, which should be reviewed on a weekly basis, to properly contain the virus.

He added that the local government should help re-capitalize small businesses and prepare an economic stimulus to improve the purchasing power of the people.

Labor leader Wennie Sancho said MECQ would continue to bring economic difficulties to the workers as it would increase unemployment due to the closure of more business establishments.

“Unfortunately, there is no sufficient explanation from the local government as to what are the specific areas where there was extreme COVID-19 contamination so we should avoid those places,” Sancho, secretary-general of General Alliance of Workers Associations, said.

Former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela said declaratory executive orders and “clarifications” were reactionary and oftentimes only confused the people.

“Bacolod residents feel isolated from their local government and do not see any reassuring signs that the city is winning the war against COVID-19. Effective and visible leadership that secures community support is key to winning the war,” he said.

He also asked what was the battle plan against the virus, and if there was enough facilities for COVID-19 patients .

He added, “are the needs of the vulnerable, the jobless and dislocated, taken care of? If so, for how long? What resources are available from the city’s coffers? Can the city reprogram its development funds to address the gaps?” –

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