On March 15, 2020, the national government has enforced a “community quarantine” in Metro Manila as Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increase day by day. In a press briefing held by the Office of the President on Friday, March 13, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte reiterated the regulations of the month-long arrangement. Here are the things that you might need to know:
- The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged the local government units (LGUs) to pass or amend their respective curfew ordinances. However, the implementation of the 9-hour curfew is upon the discretion of LGUs in their respective areas.
- Classes in the NCR have been suspended until April 12, 2020.
- Employees who work in the metro but live outside – and vice versa – are allowed to enter and exit the region given that they show proof of employment and identification (e.g. company I.D., office I.D., government I.D.) to uniformed personnel situated in designated boundaries such as, among others, the Meycauayan, Bulacan and Valenzuela boundary, Cainta, Rizal and Pasig boundary, and San Pedro and Muntinlupa boundary.
- Land, domestic air, and sea travel are suspended until April 14, 2020. Motorcycle-taxis (e.g. Angkas, JoyRide, and Moveit), PNR Alabang to Calamba, and passenger sea vessels to and from Metro Manila are, likewise, temporarily suspended. However, every day, local transportation such as the MRT, LRT, Public Utility Jeepneys (PUJs), and Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) are still allowed to operate per the following conditions:
- Trains may accommodate 250 to 300 passengers per ride, granted that the one-meter social distancing will be strictly implemented.
- Jeepneys should not accommodate more than half of the seating capacity per ride. This includes the driver.
- Taxis and ride-hailing companies should not accommodate more than 4 passengers per ride. This includes the driver.
- UV Express should not accommodate more than 6 passengers per ride. This includes the driver.
- Public utility buses should not accommodate more than 25 passengers per ride. This includes the driver and the conductor. Likewise, no passengers must be seen standing during the trip.
- Class 2 and Class 3 PUVs should not accommodate more than half of the seating capacity per ride. This includes the driver. Likewise, no passengers must be seen standing during the trip.
- Ferry services within the NCR should not accommodate more than 50 percent of the capacity. These will still be allowed to dock in ferry terminals near the metro (e.g. Batangas and Subic).
- Delivery of basic goods are permitted to enter and exit the metro, granted that drivers and helpers must stay inside the delivery trucks.
- There are no imposed limits on buying basic necessities, However, establishments have imposed a strict policy on buying alcohol – that is, 2 to 3 bottles, of any size, kind, or brand, per customer. People are still advised not to hoard any products.
- Events and mass gatherings are suspended until further notice.
- Flexible working arrangements are advised in the private sector. Malls will be temporarily closed while supermarkets, groceries, pharmacies, and banks will remain open to the public.
Citizens are urged to comply with these regulations to prevent the further transmission of the virus; the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been deployed to checkpoints to assist, check, and maintain the borders during the community quarantine.
Citizens are advised to refrain from going out of their homes and commuting unless absolutely necessary, and the PNP and AFP are expected to validate trips to ensure the public’s safety.
Those who violate the community quarantine measures will not be arrested as clarified by Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“No, just being physically prevented from entering or exiting. But if the person assaults the law enforcement agent, or slanders him, or bribes him, then that’s cause for warrantless arrest,” Guevarra was quoted as saying in a PhilStar report.
Human Rights Lawyer Chel Diokno further clarified: “The Philippine National Police (PNP) cannot arrest and detain you for violating public health emergency measures. Pwede ka nilang haranging at ‘wag papasukin, na tama lang naman kung kailangan, pero hindi ka nila pwedeng arestuhin at ikulong dahil hindi naman krimen and subukang pumasok sa Metro Manila.”
Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and the enforced community quarantine, it is important for citizens to be aware of their rights as the government practices measures to prevent the virus from spreading further.
As the government does its part in managing the situation, let us not forget that we, too, can do our own preventive measures to avoid contracting and transmitting the virus:
- Observe proper hygiene
- Observe coughing and sneezing etiquette; and
- Cleanse and sanitize hands at all times
“Ligtas ang may alam,” people always say; and, indeed, that on this day, prevention is cure.