Villar had earlier recommended allowing workers in labor-intensive sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture to resume operations to reopen the country’s economy which was affected in light of the COVID-19 crisis. “By now, the places where COVID-19 cases are concentrated are already identified by the local government. The country is in dire need to restart the economy, and it needs to do it now, lest it runs the risk of sinking even deeper than the Asian Financial Crisis and taking-on irreversible economic damage that will take decades to repair, if at all,” she added. Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso of the City of Manila has also reportedly thumbed down the order of the Inter Agency Task Force on Covid-19 to keep the National Capital Region on a modified version of the Enhanced Community Quarantine. Domagoso said the city needs to restart its economic activity or it will fall into a desperate situation. Even Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte echoed this concern when she rerquested last Monday to transfer the biggest city of Metro Manila from ECQ to GCQ. Belmonte said there is an urgent need to start the cities economy now. Some Metro Mayors said the nation’s capital, for one, should not be allowed to be on a standstill, at least not completely. It should be considered that “off-center” cities can and should play the role in jumpstarting the economy. They said that it is in the “off-center” cities where major critical enterprises and manufacturing facilities are located, in addition to having access to major highways and provincial markets. Some 70% of Philippine GDP comes from the National Capital Region (NCR), Calabarzon and Central Luzon and the country risks losing 70% of the GDP if key cities continue to remain on lockdown. During the current lockdown, these “off-center” cities have shown exceptional performance in locally managing the effects of the pandemic. A modified approach As opposed to a complete lockdown or an extended Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), a different set of considerations like the ability to safely produce and mobilize essential goods and services for these cities should also be studied and examined in the relaxation of quarantine or possible gradual lifting in the days and weeks to come. Las Piñas, Taguig and Muntinlupa are gateways to the south and have shown favorable results in their management of COVID-19 cases. Navotas and Malabon are the fishing capital of NCR which is vital to sustain food supply in NCR and major parts of Luzon, Valenzuela is a manufacturing hub; and Caloocan is the gateway to the north and home to several businesses and warehouses. The Philippine Government has placed the NCR, Cebu and Laguna on a modified ECQ effective May 16, 2020 while other specified areas are placed under a General Community Quarantine (GCQ). In the latter, key industries are allowed to operate and contribute to the national economy: agriculture, forestry, food production, supply chain, manufacturing for export, construction, e-commerce and repair and maintenance services. The off-center situation A study from the office of Villar shows that as of 08 May 2020, northern cities like Caloocan City only has 15 cases for every 100,000 people (“Attack Rate” or “AR”) despite having the third highest population in Metro Manila. Valenzuela has 17 and Navotas has 15. In the middle of the northern cluster is Malabon with the lowest AR in Metro Manila at 15. Clearly, these off-center cities should not be included in the same group of cities with case rates that are up to 12 times higher.