Villar, Isko, Belmonte balk at modified ECQ for NCR

posted May 13, 2020 at 12:45 pm
by  Manila Standard
Senator Cynthia Villar fought for the lifting of ECQ in certain cities of Metro Manila, particularly her bailiwick Las Pinas, as the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 has placed the National Capital Region on a modified version of Enhanced Community Quarantine for another two weeks. “I agree that we should start reopening the economy and begin the implementation of new normal measures in Metro Manila areas that have been successful in keeping their COVID-19 cases under control,” Villar said in a statement.

Villar, Isko, Belmonte balks at modified ECQ for NCR

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.

Moving southward, cities like Las Piñas, Taguig, and Muntinlupa evidently also show lower case statistics with AR ranging from 32 to 33. Marikina in the east has an AR of 28. In terms of Case Fatality Rates (CFR), it is noteworthy that cities located in the south record some of the lowest CFR in NCR, i.e. Taguig and Las Piñas with 4% and 6%, respectively – mere fractions of other cities with a high of 17%.

These southern off-center cities also have low-medium AR. This just means that together with the relatively lower AR, the COVID-19 survival rates here are some of the best in NCR. In fact, Taguig and Las Piñas have the best showing in containing the virus having the lowest CFR vis-à-vis a comparatively lower AR than the rest of NCR. Other cities with low CFRs include Malabon, Valenzuela, Makati and Pasay.

Heart of the matter

Data show that cities located in the central part of NCR experience the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases like San Juan, which has the highest AR in Metro Manila at 186, Mandaluyong with 106, Makati with 76 and Parañaque with 80. The following cities have rather lower ARs than the four mentioned: Quezon City with 48, Pasig with 38, Pasay with 52, Pateros with 34 and Manila with 43.

Despite fairly lower ARs among these nine (9) central cities, Quezon City and Manila, with 1,497 and 817 infections, respectively, have the highest number of confirmed cases in NCR. These central cities with the highest number of COVID- 19 cases comprise close to 70% of the total confirmed cases in NCR or 4,542 in absolute terms, according to the 08 May 2020 DOH COVID-19 Tracker.

One of the factors that may have contributed to such numbers is the heightened mobility to and from major business hubs like the Makati CBD and Ortigas Center, which rely on the free ingress and egress of employees from other Metro Manila cities.

Owing to its population, land mass and number of cases, Quezon City also experienced the highest number of deaths (121) among Metro Manila cities and likewise has the highest number of hospital admissions.

Time to recover

Many sectors from NCR have already expressed concern that the extended ECQ has taken its toll on the terribly burdened marginalized sector. Furthermore, it has shaken the country’s economic base and has put a threat on food security.

It is imperative that the Government recognizes that maintaining the critical balance between addressing the pandemic and keeping a strong economic base with a continued source of essential goods calls for a selective geographic approach in determining cities to be placed either on ECQ or GCQ.

Needless to say, an NCR-wide ECQ wherein everyone stands still—including those who are able to operate safely—might not be the prudent course of action. Rather, more realistic and sustainable measures should be put in place.

Topics: Cynthia Villar , Enhanced Community Quarantine , COVID-19 , Isko Moreno
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