March 18 ------ President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity to allow the government to tap more funds to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The state of calamity will last for six months unless earlier lifted or extended by the President, according to Proclamation 929 signed by Duterte on Monday. “Despite government interventions, the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise,” the proclamation stated.
Duterte also tasked all law enforcement agencies, with the support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, “to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas, as may be necessary.” The proclamation also provided for the implementation of a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine aimed at curbing the further spread of the deadly virus. Latest government data showed the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines rose to 187 on Tuesday after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed 45 new infections. The DOH also reported the recovery of another patient, bringing the total number of recoveries recorded in the country to four.
Interviewed on GMA’s 24 Oras on Tuesday. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said all local government units (LGUs) may now tap their Quick Response Fund (QRF) with the declaration of the nationwide state of calamity. “Kailangan gawin ito para ang mag-tap ng QRF ay mapadali para sa mga LGUs,” he said. Nograles said the Department of Social Welfare and Development would help the LGUs in giving food assistance to their constituents during the quarantine period.
Duterte earlier mandated the barangay captains to ensure that their constituents will get enough food. Nograles also said that several Cabinet officials will hold a news conference at 8 p.m. Tuesday to issue additional guidelines in the enforcement of the enhance community quarantine. Chaos and confusion among the people were seen on Tuesday as authorities implement the stricter quarantine measures. Hundreds of commuters were stranded in various points as the operation of mass transportation was suspended in Luzon.
According to the Department of Budget and Management, QRFs are “built-in budgetary allocations that represent pre-disaster or standby funds for agencies in order to immediately assist areas stricken by catastrophes and crises.
The following agencies have built-in QRFs to ensure immediate action during calamities:
• Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)
• Department of National Defense (DND) – Office of the Secretary (OSEC)/ Office of the Civil Defense (OCD)
• Department of Education (DepEd)
• Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
• Department of Agriculture (DA)
Unlike the Calamity Fund, the QRF does not require the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council or the approval of OP to trigger the use and release of funds, the DBM said. When the QRF gets depleted, the agency may request for replenishment with a request to the DBM and to be approved by the Office of the President.