President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday told the nation of his dilemma: ensuring that both people's lives and the the economy survive the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he was caught "between the devil and the deep blue sea."
On Monday, the Philippines' confirmed nearly 7,000 COVID-19 cases, the most so far in a single day, the record tally coming just days after it overtook Indonesia to top Southeast Asia in terms of total infections.
Last week, the country officially sank into a recession after second quarter gross domestic product shrank by 16.5%, the most since 1981. It will take a lot of "fiscal stamina" and a vaccine to defeat the health crisis, said Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez.
Duterte said there was not enough funds yet for a fresh wave of cash aid that is needed for people in locked down areas. Social amelioration ensured a monthly stipend under the first Bayanihan or pandemic response law that was passed in March. Bayanihan 2 hurdled Congress Monday and will need to be reconciled with the Senate version before the President can sign it into law.
"Ito and dilemma ko, dito ako between the devil and the deep blue sea (This is my dilemma, between the devil and the deep blue sea)," said Duterte, wearing a face mask in a midnight address to the nation.
Duterte appealed to the public to follow quarantine protocols. In case of a "runaway contagion," he said he would be "forced" to tap the military. "Kung andiyan ang military for you to obey, sumunod kayo dahil para sa inyo yan (If the military is there for you to obey. You should obey because it is for your own good)."
"The challenges are daunting but we will not be defeated," Duterte said, citing the Filipinos' resilience and religiosity.
Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal are halfway into 15 days of strict quarantine or MECQ aimed at slowing infections and recalibrating the pandemic-fighting strategy. A distress call from health frontliners prompted its reimposition.
Among new measures, the Philippines will increase traced contacts of COVID-19 patients to around 37, shift to the more conclusive RT-PCR tests instead of rapid tests, increase the hospital bed allocation for COVID-19 patients , build more isolation facilities, and commence human trials on the Japanese-made anti-flu drug, Avigan. On Thursday, it opened and a command center for Metro Manila hospitals.
Starting on Aug. 15, face shields will also be required on top of face masks when riding public transport where it is allowed, that's in General Community Quarantine and Modified General Community Quarantine areas.