MANILA, Feb 17 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Duterte is studying the proposal to place the entire country under the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) starting March 1, 2021 to address the rise in hunger and poverty, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua proposed a shift to MGCQ status to balance health and economy in a televised meeting with Duterte and other top officials on Monday night.

Chua also proposed to gradually allow persons between five to 70-years-old out of their houses as part of further reopening the economy. Currently, only persons between 15 and 65 years old are permitted to leave their homes.

His recommendation includes the further expansion of public transportation from 50 percent to 75 percent subject to the observance of proper health protocols.

“Pinag-aaralang mabuti ng Pangulo ang rekomendasyon na ito at ang sabi nga niya nais niyang ito ay mapag-usapan sa susunod na Cabinet meeting sa 22 ng buwang ito (The President is thoroughly studying this recommendation and he said he wants to bring this up during the Cabinet meeting on Feb. 22),” Roque said in a press briefing from Davao City.

Citing a study prepared by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Roque said prolonged lockdowns in the country caused 23.7 million more people to go hungry, 4.5 million more to fall into poverty, and 2.7 million to lose their jobs.

He said the study also showed that there were some 480,338 Filipinos dying due to non-Covid-19 related causes.

To allay concerns over a possible spike in Covid-19 cases once quarantine statuses ease, Roque cited survey results released by OCTA Research Group which showed that 93 percent of 600 respondents from Metro Manila wear a face mask to curb the risk of getting infected with the virus.

“Dahil mas matimbang na nga po yung paghihirap natin dahil sa non-Covid-related activities at dahil napatunayan naman ng mga Pilipino sa isang survey po ng OCTA Research 93 percent po ang sumusunod sa pagsusuot ng mask sa ating mga kababayan e pinapakita natin na panahon na po siguro talaga na isalba naman natin ang ating mga kababayan sa pagkagutom at sa pagkahirap eto po ay dahilan sa mga ibang bagay at hindi lang Covid (Because we can see that there are more Filipinos suffering due to non-Covid-related activities and because a survey conducted by OCTA showed that 93 percent of Filipinos wear face masks, perhaps it’s really time to save our citizens from hunger and poverty due to other causes not just Covid),” he said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) earlier allowed persons as young as 10 years old to go out in public places with their parents in a bid to boost consumer spending and business activity.

However, Duterte recalled the order amid the threat of the new and more infectious coronavirus variant.

Metro Manila has been under general community quarantine (GCQ) since August last year. Other areas under GCQ are Cordillera Administrative Region, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao del Norte, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur.

The rest of the country has stayed under the least restrictive MGCQ this month.

The health authorities said the country has 511,755 Covid-19 recoveries and 27,588 active cases while 11,517 died as of Feb. 15, 2021. (PNA)

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