Malacañang on Wednesday withdrew its earlier pronouncement lifting quarantine restrictions in Palawan and other “low risk” areas of COVID-19, stating instead that the province will be placed under a “modified general community quarantine (MGCQ)” after May 15.

The clarification was made by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque a day after the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) released its Resolution #35 which stated that “low risk” provinces including Palawan and the rest of the MIMAROPA region will no longer be under quarantine restrictions starting May 16.

Explaining the withdrawal of the resolution, health secretary Francisco Duque said it was an “honest mistake” on their part, saying he had not authorized his signature to be affixed to the resolution.

“Nagkaroon ng honest mistake sa nilabas na IATF resolution. Ang representation kasi ay wala munang babanggiting lugar noong una,” Duque said.

Roque proceeded to clarify that “no area of the country will be outside quarantine restrictions” until a vaccine or antibody treatment to combat COVID-19 becomes available.

He said that all areas earlier classified as “low risk” will be considered as under a Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).

“All areas previously classified with no community quarantines now reclassified under modified GCQ,” Roque said.

No specific guidelines

The IATF has yet to issue specific guidelines under a MGCQ, even as it stated that provinces covered under it will be governed by “minimum health standards” of physical distancing, wearing of masks, and general reduction of people in work environments.

The specific guidelines are expected to delineate the difference between the rules under GCQ and Modified GCQ, particularly on the treatment for so-called Category IV establishments such as movie houses and entertainment facilities, dine-in restaurants and similar facilities.

Pending MGCQ guidelines, Roque explained that “movement goes back to normal” but with strict observance of “minimum health standards” such as wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and other health protocols.

“Kung puwede, let’s make work-from-home the norm and onsite work as the exception,” Roque said.

Work in the private and public sectors may be expected to return at 100 percent and public transportation may soon resume.

“Restaurants are still not allowed to provide dine-in services. Those under GCQ are under review,” Roque added.

However, when asked to explain what MGCQ means, Roque says he will explain its difference from GCQ tomorrow (Thursday).

Response from provinces

Meanwhile, Interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año also said that eight regions and 37 provinces have appealed the lifting of the general community quarantine for low risk areas provided under Resolution 35.

“The IATF resolution states that 37 provinces and 11 cities have been identified as low-risk areas. May mga nagsasabing hindi pa sila handa kaya magkakaroon tayo ng amendment,” Año said.

LGUs To Follow Orders

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial and city director Virgilio Tagle reiterated that the pronouncement made is still pending “black and white” guidelines from the national IATF.

“I made a call with my outcome manager, ang pronouncement ni Harry Roque is walang area sa Philippines na lifted ang community quarantine. Although walang official, hindi pa yan official base pa lang sa conference na ginawa ng mga cabinet secretaries with Harry Roque,” Tagle said.

Lawyer Arnel Pedrosa, city administrator, said that they are still waiting for the MGCQ guidelines to be issued by the national IATF.

“We will follow that. We dont have a choice,” Pedrosa said.

The latest pronouncement stirred discussion among Palaweño Facebook users, who expressed “mixed feelings” upon anticipating “no community quarantine” in the city and province.

“Better na rin ang ganyan, lalo na wala tayong mass testing dito. Second wave ng virus and pinaka-malala kaya better na sumunod na lang para hindi tayo dumating sa point na ‘yon,” one netizen said.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.