Businesses are looking for a consistent and uniform adoption of alert level system (ALS) across Metro Manila and other areas within the GCQ mandate to avoid confusion and possible mayhem from varying interpretations and discretions.
TO AVOID confusion that could lead to possible mayhem and even corruption and abuse of authorities, business leaders are asking the national government to adopt a uniform alert level system across Metro Manila.
This, as Metro Manila begins tomorrow the GCQ (general community quarantine) with alert levels 1 to 5 that defines who are allowed to move in a specific area.
The caveat, however, is that the guidelines will be subject to the interpretation and discretion of local government units—which would naturally lead to varying interpretation, corruption and abuse of authority.
Businesses, therefore, are looking for a consistent uniform adoption of alert level system (ALS) across Metro Manila and other areas within the GCQ mandate for a clearer implementation of the guidelines.
George Barcelon, Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council private sector representative, said the new guidelines may bring a bit of confusion both to the public and business sector.
This, as the ALS vests the local government units (LGUs) with authority to impose granular lockdowns upon determination, he told Business Mirror.
“The guidelines are not really clear-cut. All of these things depend on the interpretation.”
Barcelon suggested that the government create a digital dashboard like Google Maps and Waze whereby the public can access information about the lockdown measures imposed on certain areas.
He said this can help the business sector adjust their supply chain, the movement of their workforces, along with their operations and deliveries.
“We further hope that the guidelines will be fairly and uniformly implemented by all LGUs and not too costly to monitor,” said Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Acting President Edgardo Lacson.
Lacson said “well-balanced” guidelines, which both considers the health of the public and economy, are very urgent.
MM in Level 4
Metro Manila is subject to Alert 4 by September 16. The ALS is broken down to 5 levels and 5 being the most alarming and restrictive. (See also: Prepare to be confused! IATF releases new lockdown variants; NCR under Alert Level 4 )
“You can’t blame business for being impatient but it’s probably prudent to start at Level 4,” Makati Business Club Executive Director Francisco Alcuaz Jr. said.
“We hope that can be brought down gradually as we all, especially the mayors, learn to manage saving jobs with saving lives.”
With this, Alcuaz also called on the national and local government to improve hospital, isolation and quarantine systems to better manage the surge in Covid-19 cases.
Barcelon said he sees no problem with imposing lockdowns in areas with high Covid-19 infection rate but noted that cases still went up during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“The reality is we have to live with Covid-19 spreading as the economy seeks to reopen safely,” he said.
To allow safe mobility, Barcelon said that Covid-19 testing should be intensified at the “grassroots” level.
“We have to provide for free the saliva test and antigen test and teach them how to use at the barangay level, even for companies,” he explained.
Barcelon, who chairs the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., said commuters should be tested at least once a week before going out of the vicinity.
“Despite allocating substantial funding for contract tracing, nothing really happened. They spent so much money,” he said. “Why not use that money really to go to the grassroots.”
Rizalina Mantaring, national issues committee chair of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), welcomed the further mobility for the vaccinated. She hopes “this can be expanded further in the future to allow a full and safe reopening of the economy.”
But Mantaring said granular lockdowns will only work if they are reinforced with timely testing and contact tracing.
Meanwhile, she stressed the need for the government to address the resumption of face-to-face classes.
“This is an urgent issue as online learning has been shown to be not as effective all over the world. Impaired learning capability will impact our youth and consequently our country’s competitiveness well into the future,” Mantaring added.
‘Unfair’ to LGUs
In a recent statement, former vice president Jejomar C. Binay said the national government is “being unfair to the local governments of Metro Manila” with the implementation of granular lockdowns.
“The national government is not only passing the burden of containing the spread of the virus and providing ayuda [aid] to their constituents to the LGUs,” he stressed.
“By making the LGUs take the lead, the national government can now wash its hands of any blame for possible lapses or missteps.”
Binay said it is also “counter-intuitive” to implement the granular lockdown as it is usually adopted when cases are low. “But we are experiencing a surge, and experts say the proper strategy is to contain the virus, which means restricting movements for a certain period…. It defies common sense,” he added.
The granular lockdowns and alert level setting was approved by the inter agency task force to manage emerging infectious diseases (IATF) and by the Task Force Covid last Tuesday and would be pilot- tested in NCR beginning tomorrow (September 16).
The new system is more relaxed with age mobility restrictions and provides some perks to fully- vaccinated people.
In the new scheme, there will only be two quarantine classifications to be declared over a region – enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and a new version of GCQ.
Under this GCQ, there will be alert levels declared over each city or municipality – Alert Levels 1 to 5.
These alert levels will determine which types of establishments can open and how much of their venue capacity will be allowed. The ECQ classification is also referred to as Alert Level 5.
It's only on Alert Levels 4 and 5 that high-risk establishments will be ordered totally closed. Under the lower levels, places like gyms, restaurants, meeting venues, and personal care services like spas and salons can remain open to a certain degree.
Also, on Alert Levels 1 to 3, there will no longer be age-based mobility restrictions, unless cities themselves impose them on certain age groups.
Alert Level 4 is when perks for vaccinated persons will kick in. Only fully- vaccinated people can dine in restaurants indoors, attend religious gatherings indoors, or have their hair and nails done inside salons.
The problem with LGUs having discretion and power to determine what alert levels to set in a period and over a locality is that those residents or businesses that are not favorable to the tanods or barangay officials will be made to operate like Christmas lights (on again, off again).
Another is those in authority (including the purok leaders) can recommend the closure or reopening of certain areas—depending on personal favors rather than on infections and severity of cases and health facilities.
As such, they can also be in control of imposing penalties or other possible incomes for them from business establishments or workers.
Since even President Duterte said “corruption is endemic” then everything can become a source of income.
The alert levels will be decided by the Department of Health every week for cities and towns in close coordination with MM mayor.
It will be the national task force that will have the power to impose ECQ or alert level 5.
Again, this would divert the attention of IATF, DoH and the Task Force Covid from more pressing issues like hospital occupancy, oxygen, hospital-grades masks, gowns, shoe covers and other PPE supplies, distributing hazard pay and other emoluments due to the healthworkers, the arrival of vaccines and rollout in high-risk areas and so many other issues of national importance.
Why is everyone trying to micro-manage Covid-19?
Tags: #communityquarantines, #economy, #businesses, #Covid19, #MetroManila