Does Pernia’s resignation indicate there will be lockdown extension?, Bayan asks
MANILA, Philippines — Does the resignation of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia “indicate that there will be a lockdown extension?”
This question was raised Friday by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes, as he cited Pernia’s reason for leaving the Duterte Cabinet: “due partly to personal reasons and partly to differences in development philosophy with a few of my fellow Cabinet members.”
To recall, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which Pernia heads, has said that extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) across Luzon further than April 30 and expanding it to cover other areas might be difficult for the country’s economy.
“Does Pernia’s resignation indicate that there will be a lockdown extension? NEDA has stood for a selective community quarantine to be able to revive the economy, instead of an indefinite and extensive lockdown. NEDA has been studying the post-lockdown scenarios together with UP,” Reyes told reporters in a message.
“Pernia said he resigned due to differences in development philosophy. We fear that a lockdown extension may be one of the reasons why he resigned,” he added.
In a radio interview a day before he announced his resignation, Pernia pushed for a partial easing of the ECQ that was imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
“It’s difficult. A lot of people are saying that there needs to be partial opening. However, there should be precaution against the resurgence or the relapse of people who had been cured or who were able to avoid the COVID-positive situation,” Pernia, speaking partly in Filipino, told DZMM.
He also pushed for a modified lockdown in Luzon, with Metro Manila easing some of the travel restrictions to revive the economy while setting the motion for the country’s agricultural industry.
It is partly similar to the suggestion of the University of the Philippines’ COVID-19 response team, which pushes for ECQs that would depend on the ratio of cases in a locality compared to its estimated outbreak probability.
In one of his speeches, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would lift the lockdown if an antibody against the latest coronavirus strain has been developed and made available. While he admitted that the country is in the last of the priority countries, he also believes that the Philippines may be prioritized if the vaccine will be developed by China.
The Luzon-wide ECQ has practically paralyzed work for most people since only frontline services and those whose jobs can adopt to a work-from-home scheme continue to operate. Workers, who mostly rely on daily earnings, were left without any income through the lockdown.
Duterte initially imposed a lockdown until mid-April but he extended it until April 30 as COVID-19 cases in the country continue to increase. A member of a government task force has said the strict quarantine might still be extended beyond April 30 if the number of COVID-19 cases persists to surge.
As of Friday, the Philippines has recorded 5,878 people positive for SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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