February 23 ------ President Duterte rejected the proposal to place the entire country under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) until the government’s vaccination program against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) starts. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the announcement following the clamor among the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the mayors of Metro Manila to place the entire country under the least strict quarantine classification.
In a statement, Roque said that President Duterte was not keen on approving the shift of the entire Philippines to MGCQ without the vaccination program starting even though he recognizes the need to reopen the economy. “President Duterte gave his directive to the Cabinet that the Philippines would not be placed under MGCQ unless there is a rollout of vaccines,” he said.
“The Chief Executive recognizes the importance of re-opening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods. However, the President gives higher premium to public health and safety,” he added. Roque also said President Duterte wants the vaccination program to start immediately. “PRRD also wants vaccination to start the soonest possible time in order to ease the community quarantine,” he said.
On Monday, February 22, Roque expressed confidence that the Philippines was ready to shift to MGCQ despite concerns of the health sector that the shift to the least strict of the four quarantine classifications will result in more COVID-19 cases. He, however, said that it was still President Duterte who will decide on the matter. “Totoo po pupwedeng tumaas ang kaso pero ang katotohanan din, handa naman po tayo,” Roque said.
“Pero gaya ng aking sinabi, hayaan na nating magdesisyon ang Presidente dahil ultimately, recommendatory lang ang IATF,” he added.