DILG: Non-essential businesses that remain open during Luzon quarantine will be forcibly closed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 17) – Private companies and businesses that do not render essential services but are continuing operations during the Luzon quarantine will be forcibly closed, the Department of Interior and Local Government warned Tuesday.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya appealed to private firms to suspend their operations starting Tuesday and not allow their employees to go to work anymore, as the government tries to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19 through the enhanced community quarantine in the region.

'Wag na pong papasukin ang ating mga empleyado dahil kapag nag-ikot ang ating kapulisan nakitang nakabukas (Please do not let your employees go to work today because if authorities do the rounds and they chance upon your ongoing operations), we will force close those businesses maliban na lang po (except) if they are critical government structure, if they are pharmacies, if they are banks, hospitals, clinics, any thing related to medical and food production and processing. Kapag restaurant, sarado po iyan (Restaurants must be closed)," Malaya said.

"Let me clarify, 'yung essential workforce po ay part lang sa gobyerno iyan and not all government officers. Only the responders, the disaster, emergency units can do skeletal force. Everybody else, we should go home," he added.

Business process outsourcing firms may only be exempted if lodging will be provided to their employees, Malaya clarified.

"'Yung BPOs, they are only exempted if they can provide lodging in their companies, iyan lang ang exemption (that's the only exemption). It is now up to the BPO industry to make the necessary arrangements para hindi na bumyahe yung kanilang mga empleyado (so their employees do not have to travel anymore). We will allow them to operate so long as their employees are in one place only and may social distancing na iniimplement sa workplace," he said.

Local government units are already looking into providing vehicles for health workers, while certain responders in the disaster and emergency units of local government offices can still operate through a skeletal workforce, he added. Those who still need to work but have no means of transportation, will have to walk to their place of work.

"Health workers are exempted from this travel ban. LGUs are addressing transportation problems, pero 'yung iba maglalakad talaga (but the others have no choice but to walk)," he said

Malaya admitted the government is still struggling to address the "kinks" on the first day of the implementation of the enhanced quarantine, saying officials expect the situation to normalize in the next few days. He asked for the public's patience.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday placed the entire Luzon under the enhanced community quarantine. This means, people will only be allowed to go out of their homes to access basic necessities. Mass public transportation services will also be suspended, while land, air and sea travel is restricted. This includes transport network vehicle services like Grab, OWTO and Micab.

The country has so far recorded 142 cases of COVID-19, including 12 fatalities.