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EOC, docs oppose move to relax age restrictions

BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III

The Emergency Operations Center met with Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia yesterday on the decision of the national Inter-Agency Task Force to allow 10 to 65 years old to go out of their residences in areas under the modified general community quarantine status by Feb. 1.

Dr. Chris Sorongon, deputy for medical and data analysis of the EOC, said they met with the members of the Philippine Pediatric Society local chapter, who emphasized the danger of allowing minors in establishments and other crowded places.

He said they would like to retain the current age restrictions.

Under Executive Order No. 1, series of 2021, issued by Leonardia recently, those 15 years old and below are prohibited from entering malls and other business establishments, even when accompanied by parents or guardians.

Senior citizens, age 65 years old and above, are also barred from going out of their homes unless they need to buy essentials or go to work in industries permitted under the more relaxed MGCQ status.

The IATF for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recently allowed people aged 10 to 65 years old to leave their homes for non-essential activities, such as going to malls, to stimulate the economy.

But the Department of Health said it is planning to recommend to the IATF-EID to suspend the easing of age restrictions.

In a Laging Handa briefing on Saturday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said three out of the 16 new cases of the B.1.1.7 SARS-Cov-2 (United Kingdom) variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 reported in the country on Friday night were aged 18 and below.

“With the new variant detected in the country, we are thinking of recommending to maybe suspend the easing of age requirement that will allow children to go out, so that we can prevent more infections,” Vergeire said.

NEGATIVE FOR UK VARIANT

Sorongon said the three Bacolodnons, who were on the same flight with the businessman from Quezon City, who was later found to have been infected with the UK variant of Covid-19, have tested negative.

He said the three, two from Barangay Estefania and the other one from Tangub, are completing their 14-day quarantine.

Health authorities earlier confirmed 16 more cases of the UK variant, mostly from Bontoc, Mountain Province and La Trinidad, Benguet in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Meanwhile, Leonardia said government spending is necessary for the economic recovery of every community in view of the effects of the pandemic.

“When we talk about economic recovery, we should start with government spending. We should spend money so we can create jobs and we can stir the economy once again,” the mayor said during the City Development Council meeting recently.

Leonardia, who chairs the CDC, said cities like Bacolod should strive to catch up with the bigger cities, like those in Metro Manila, to maximize their economic potentials.

“It’s just a matter of time. We should dream that whatever we see in the bigger cities, we should also have them in Bacolod as well. We should catch up,” he stressed.

The mayor also cited how competitive the cities in the United States are, adding that there is no complete monopoly of the big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

He said, “I dream that we will have a similar set-up in the Philippines. We cannot allow the mega cities to dominate, we must strive to level the playing field.”

PRIORITY

The procurement of vaccines against Covid is a top priority in the city government’s economic recovery program.

Leonardia said Bacolod was among the first cities to cut a deal to secure vaccines. A survey conducted by CNN lists Bacolod as among the top five cities that secured the biggest number of vaccines from the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The others are Davao, Quezon, Makati, and Manila.

The mayor said that although the vaccines “won’t come tomorrow” – since its scheduled delivery is in the third quarter yet – the vaccine availment agreement will still “give a sense of assurance, security, and direction” to the people of Bacolod.

“The vaccine is our savior. But hand in hand with what is happening, we also have to think of what we shall do after Covid-19,” Leonardia added.

He said he is optimistic that Bacolod will regain its business growth momentum once the pandemic is over.

“Bacolod will be back in business and will continue to be among the most progressive cities in the country because we have the fundamentals already established here,” he stressed.

PROJECTS

In the meeting, Leonardia also gave a slide presentation of multiple projects geared toward the economic recovery of Bacolod. Among these are the establishment of the East Terminal in Barangay Mansilingan and the South Terminal along the Circumferential Road, that are also seen to help decongest traffic in city’s central area.

City Hall records show that in 2020, a total of 23,545 businesses registered with the Permits and Licensing Office, or about 2,000 short of the 25,637 business registrations in 2019.

“It’s only an 8 percent drop and we hope that, again in 2021, it will not be as bad as some sectors would project it,” Leonardia said.

Leonardia also said the progress of Bacolod, among major factors, is brought about by good governance and the cooperation between the citizens and public officials, particularly barangay captains. “If we only do things right and we commit to our jobs, Bacolod will rise again. In the end, when we progress, it will eventually cascade down to the less fortunate ones and they will also benefit from the fruits of development,” he added.*

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