Quarantine control points will remain to ensure that only authorized individuals on essential travel are going out of their homes despite the shift of some areas to less stringent quarantine restrictions against COVID-19, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Tuesday.
In a statement, PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said they will continue to be vigilant in implementing public health protocols and assist local government units in enforcing local health ordinances in certain jurisdictions that are under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
In May, when the country first shifted to GCQ from an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), checkpoints were not removed but installed randomly. Now, they will not be removed despite the relaxed lockdown, the PNP said.
• The Philippines’ COVID-19 task force once again barred gyms and internet cafes from operating
in areas under GCQ, the Palace said Tuesday.
READ: ‘Gyms, net cafes can’t reopen yet’
• The Supreme Court has ordered the physical opening of all courts
in Metro Manila and other areas under the GCQ starting Aug. 19.
READ: All courts to physically reopen—SC
In a public address Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will revert to the less stringent GCQ starting Wednesday, Aug. 19, until Aug. 31.
Also under GCQ starting today are the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Batangas, and Quezon along with cities of Iloilo, Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, and Talisay and the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu province.
The rest of the country is under the less stringent MGCQ.
Banac said PNP operations will remain guided by the fundamental guidelines of the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
"We appeal to residents in affected communities to cooperate with local government and law enforcement authorities in enforcing quarantine rules and health protocols to further minimize transmission of the infection," he added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation said the railways and operators of various public utility vehicles such as UV Express units, taxis, buses and modern as well as traditional public utility jeepneys (PUJs) are ready to serve commuters of Metro Manila under the GCQ.
With Metro Manila shifting to a GCQ status, the MRT-3 line is ready to 18 trains a day, while the LRT-1 will dispatch 24 trains for morning and afternoon peak hours and 18 for off-peak hours.
The LRT Line 2 will deploy five trains daily.
The Philippine National Railways (PNR) is ready to deploy 10 trains on a daily basis.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has authorized the operation of additional traditional PUJs and UV Express units.
The LTFRB allowed the operation of 4,498 more PUJs on 60 routes, on top of the 7,945 units and 66 routes that were approved as of July 29.
Four more routes with 641 units have also been authorized for UV Express vehicles.
Some 3,662 public utility buseswill help ferry commuters in 31 routes across Metro Manila.
The department reminded passengers that strict health and safety protocols will be enforced.
Major local airlines will resume domestic flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after President Rodrigo Duterte approved putting Metro Manila back under a GCQ from Aug. 19 to 31.
"Cebu Pacific (CEB) and Cebgo will resume a number of domestic flights to and from Manila on Aug. 19, 2020,” the airline said in a statement.
More than 20 CEB domestic flights were scheduled Wednesday (Aug. 19). These include flights to and from Cauayan, Masbate, Legazpi, San Jose, Virac, Cebu, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Boracay, Iloilo, Tacloban, Kalibo, Butuan Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
CEB officials also announced they will also continue operating flights from Cebu to Clark and to Davao, and limited international flights in Manila to and from Dubai, Seoul (Incheon), Tokyo (Narita), Singapore, and Taipei.
"CEB will also continue to mount all-cargo flights to ensure transport of essential goods across the country. To assist stranded guests, we will also continue working with national and local governments," the airline said.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines also has 18 domestic flights scheduled for Wednesday in Manila to and from Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Iloilo, Tacloban, Butuan, Dipolog and Ozamiz.
On Thursday (Aug. 20), eight domestic flights are scheduled to and from Laoag, Cotabato, Davao, General Santos, Pagadian and Zamboanga.
PAL reminded air travelers that it is strictly implementing Fly Safe “new normal” practices in compliance with international health and safety protocols.
"Please bring your own face masks or facial coverings and wear them at all times – at the airport and throughout your flight," it said.
PAL also encouraged its clients to check in online and arrive early at the airport to allocate extra time for new safety procedures—at least three hours prior to departure for domestic flights; and four hours prior to departure for international flights.
The chief implementer of the National Task Force for COVID-19, Carlito Galvez Jr., said the government is ready for the transition to GCQ.
Galvez reminded people to wear face masks, wash their hands and avoid public places.
He encouraged people who have flu like symptoms to communicate with their barangay officials or city health centers.
He added that the government now has 14,348 contact tracing teams with a total of 145,733 workers, and that care facilities for COVID-19 patients are increasing.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque also said people should not be afraid of the cost of COVID-19 testing because people who have the symptoms of the disease are tested free.
At the same time, Roque disputed Senator Risa Hontiveros' statement that the IATF was micro-managing local government units (LGUs) in the fight against COVID-19.
Roque said the IATF role is limited to monitoring LGU efforts to contain COVID-19.
“It is not our intention to intervene with the work of local government units,” he said. “We are only giving support.”
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte approved the IATF recommendation to put the following areas—apart from Mega Manila—under GCQ starting Wednesday: Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, and the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu.
The rest of the country will be under modified GCQ, the President said in a televised briefing from Davao City, as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Capital Region and its four neighboring provinces were placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from Aug. 4 to 18 as Duterte heeded the call of medical frontliners for a respite from the escalating number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“Just be careful. Follow the safeguards,” Duterte told the country on TV.
The President also emphasized that employees did not need RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests for COVID-19 to return to work if they were asymptomatic or did not have symptoms of COVID-19.
Roque said the government’s response to the pandemic, including testing, tracing, and isolation, will be "refreshed."
Metro Manila continues to account for the bulk of the new cases reported in the country over the past two weeks.
In the last fortnight, about 16,000 more Metro Manila residents have caught the viral disease, topping the list of regions nationwide by a wide margin, based on data Monday from the Department of Health (DOH).
In other developments:
• Two archdioceses in Metro Manila are leaving the decision to their clergy and the faithful on whether they would celebrate Mass or be physically present to attend it as the region is again placed under GCQ. In a Facebook post, the Diocese of Cubao said parish priests are free to decide if they want to open churches. With John Mark Pineda, PNA