Metro Manila mayors want 'stricter' GCQ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — Metro Manila's local chief executives have recommended tweaking the guidelines on the reopening of businesses and mass gatherings if the region eases back to general community quarantine, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said on Monday.

He said all 17 mayors of Metro Manila held a meeting with officials of the COVID-19 task force on the eve of President Rodrigo Duterte's announcement on the fate of the country's capital region.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque later revealed that the mayors unanimously recommended to place Metro Manila under a relaxed GCQ starting August 19.

If Metro Manila eases restriction, Garcia said the local chief executives want the "stricter" form of GCQ implemented in early June — when the region first started to loosen gathering restrictions, reopening of nonessential businesses, and dine-in limitations.

Restrictions were gradually loosened over the next few weeks, allowing the reopening of more nonessential businesses with a bigger capacity. Among the businesses allowed to reopen gradually were personal care services, gyms, and sports facilities. The Inter-Agency Task Force also gave the go-signal for restaurants to accept dine-in customers to up to 30 percent of its capacity. 

"If ever pupunta tayo sa GCQ kailangan higpitan natin kung ano ang GCQ talaga... Balik lang tayo sa [June 1] GCQ, wala lang dagdag. Ang ginawa, nag-adjust lang tayo ng mga establishments, 'yung oras at dami ng tao," Garcia said in a media forum.

[Translation: If ever we go back to GCQ we need to be strict, let's go back to the June 1 GCQ and not add anything more. What was done was we adjusted the establishments, the hours and the number of people.]

With the recommendation to limit economic activity under GCQ, MMDA said they prefer more options for public transportation for commuters. Before Metro Manila reverted to MECQ, buses, jeepneys, taxis, trains, shuttles, and Transport Network Vehicle Service were allowed to operate. Pillion riding on motorcycles was also allowed as long as health protocols are followed.

"Kung ano ang available na public transportation na mas marami, mas maganda. Ang pinagusapan namin is about the economic activity," Garcia said.

Meanwhile, he said the Metro Manila mayors all agreed to issue "standard" curfew hours in their areas, proposing strict stay-at-home rules from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

President Duterte is set to announce new community quarantine classifications for Metro Manila and the provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, and Bulacan on Monday night.

There are now 164,474 coronavirus cases in the country, the Department of Health said, as it reported 3,314 new infections on Monday. The Philippines' ongoing lockdown is the longest in the world, with the entire country's population placed under varying degrees of stay-at-home restrictions for 156 days.