President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the nation late Monday, saying he "would be the last person" to bring them suffering, as a fresh lockdown took hold, severely restricting the movement of some 24 million people.
Duterte, who turned 76 last Sunday, said he was "having a hard time" dealing with COVID-19. He said he wished he had the power, "like a magic wand" to end the pandemic.
Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan were placed under ECQ or Enhanced Community Quarantine until April 4 as a surge in infections resulted to record case loads in the last several days, threatening to overwhelm the health system.
"Alam mo, I would be the last person --- ako ang pinakahuling tao dito sa Pilipinas na magpapahirap sa Pilipino," he said.
"If only I had the power --- kung nandiyan lang sa akin ‘yong poder na like a magic wand na maalis kaagad itong problema natin, mawala, gagawin ko," he said.
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"I’m having a hard time. I’m grappling with the issue of COVID. It takes most of my time actually. More than any other papers, it’s the COVID that is taking my time or most of my time looking for ways and kung ano na ang nangyayari doon sa labas kung saan tayo makakuha," he said.
During a discussion on the difficulties of vaccine procurement, Duterte said: "So ‘yan, it stretches the --- a mile long ang --- ang journey natin sa paano natin isugpo ang bakuna. That is how hard it is para makakuha lang talaga tayo. Iyon ‘yong ganoon kahirap. Gusto ko na ngang umiyak sa harap ninyo pero naubos na ang luha ko."
Also during his Monday evening address, the President announced quarantine classifications for April, with most regions and provinces under MGCQ, the lowest in the four-step classification system.
The Department of Health had recommended an extension of the ECQ in the "NCR Plus" region beyond April 4, citing projections that it would be more effective in taming the surge if it would last until April 18. There was no decision on the extention Monday night.
Duterte also allowed the private sector to import vaccines without donating half to the government and approved funding for P23 billion worth of aid or ayuda, in the ECQ areas, which will be given in kind.
The World Bank said the Philippines' lockdown-heavy handling of the pandemic had caused its economy to fall behind its Southeast Asian peers.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the ECQ should come with aggressive testing and tracing for it to be effective. The group said the country was "far worse" now than it was in 2020.