Duterte admits difficulty in balancing health and economy

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday admitted that he is having difficulty balancing between health and economy after reverting Metro Manila and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status to allow recalibration of the country’s healthcare capacity.

Duterte said he wanted to heed the request of medical front-liners to extend the MECQ until the end of the month to slow down the spread of the coronavirus disease, but was unsure of where the government would get funds for its social amelioration program.

The MECQ over Metro Manila and nearby provinces will be in effect until August 18.

“Ito ang dilemma ko, dito ako (This is my dilemma, I’m here) between the devil and the deep blue sea. Gusto ng mga doktor na i-lockdown kung may mga infected diyan (the doctors want to lock down infected areas),” Duterte said in a public address in Davao City.

“Ito namang sa kabila, kailangan natin nang palabasin ‘yung mga tao lalo na sa mga trabaho na kailangan talaga ng bayan — food and everything — and also to move the economy (On the other hand, we have to let people out especially those whose work involve jobs needed by the nation like on food and everything—and also move the economy),” he added.

According to Duterte, government funds are being “depleted” and he would not be able to feed every Filipino.

“Ubos na ‘yung pera na binigay ng Congress. Nabigyan kayo ng ayuda, ‘yung pera panggastos. Wala na ako niyan. Sabi, on your own ka? Totoo. Kailangan lumabas ka para maghanapbuhay para makakain (The money given by Congress has run out. You were given aid, money to spend. I no longer have funds for it. They say you’re on your own? It’s true. You need to go out and work so you have something to eat),” he said.

Duterte also told healthcare workers not to be “surprised” by a rise in the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases since it is among the consequences of opening up the economy.

Earlier, former National Task Force for Covid-19 special adviser Dr. Tony Leachon said an extended MECQ is necessary to flatten the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) epidemic curve.

Leachon said a month-long MECQ would also allow the country to bridge its healthcare gap.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said possibly extending the MECQ would entail “a delicate balance of protecting and saving people’s health to protecting and saving the economic health of the nation”.

Roque, however, said that finance officials believe the economy would not be able to withstand the impact of a longer MECQ in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Last week, the Philippine economy officially entered a recession in the second quarter due to Covid-related lockdowns.

Despite this, he said the Palace still has a strong resolve to recover and prevent the economy from collapsing.

Follow quarantine protocols

To prevent further transmission of the virus, Duterte reminded the public to strictly observe quarantine protocols such as staying indoors, social distancing, wearing of face masks and shields, and frequent hand-washing.

“Ngayon kung nandiyan ang military to enforce you to obey itong community lockdown, sumunod kayo dahil para sa inyo ‘yan (Now, if the military is there to enforce protocols during community lockdown, just obey because it’s for your own good),” he said.

Duterte, however, recognized that police and military could not prevent those who violate quarantine rules as “they cannot be everywhere and anywhere all the time”.

He expressed “full support” to uniformed personnel, vowing to protect them in case they get in trouble for enforcing quarantine rules.

Meanwhile, he said that even if challenges are “daunting”, Filipinos would overcome anything because of their “resilience” and “strong faith in God”.He also assured the public that the government is doing “everything it can” to address the prevailing health crisis by enhancing its test, trace, isolate, and treat efforts. 

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