Roque: Cebu’s initiative to ‘move forward from pandemic’ has support of national gov’t

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | March 06,2021 - 07:47 AM

Secretary Harry Roque graces the launch of the Enhanced Countryside Development in Cebu on Friday, March 5. | Screengrabbed from Sugbo News

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that Cebu Province’s initiative to already revive its economy and open its doors to tourists has the support of the national government.

The cabinet secretary said that even President Rodrigo Duterte is now focused on the need to already revive the economy and reopen its industries, a year after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic hit.

“It is unfortunate that COVID-19 struck the whole world and we are not the only one finding ourselves in this situation. As an initial response, the President correctly imposed an ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine). The ECQ was not meant so that the state would control the people for no reasons,” he said.

Roque, who was in Cebu on Friday, March 5, for the launch of the Enhanced Countryside Development said the ECQ was imposed to give time for the health care sector to gear up for the pandemic.

“It was never intended for tyrants, despots, and control freaks in the government to control every aspect of our lives. And that is why, as soon as we have prepared the hospitals for the people who will get sick, we gradually reopened the economy,” he added.

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He praised Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia for being courageous in her approach towards economic revival amid the ongoing pandemic.

“I belong with the same school of thought with your brilliant governor. COVID-19 is here to stay. We don’t even know if the vaccine will give us the so-called herd immunity that we are all praying it will result in….And yet we have taken the gamble, we need to ensure that lives will continue because the after one year of the pandemic, the people are hungry.”

Still, Roque said that the debate remains if the country should already reopen when it is merely starting to recover from the pandemic and the vaccination program has just begun.

He said that the country is now banking on vaccines and the subsequent herd immunity that this will bring as the ultimate solution to the pandemic.

As of now, the country has recorded over 550,000 COVID-19 cases, but the majority of these are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

Roque said that only three to four percent of the 21,000 active cases actually need medical attention.

“Compare this to the consequence of our year-long lockdown. There are now 23 million hungry Filipinos and there are now 800,000 Filipino who have died of other causes compared to the 12,000 who have died because of COVID. Clearly, COVID is pernicious, it is deadly, but the lockdown has caused more hunger, the lockdown has caused more death,” he said.

The presidential spokesperson said that after a year, the Philippines has learned to live with the virus, even comparing the Filipinos with American citizens, whom he said have made the wearing of face masks a civil rights issue.

“Everyone in this room is wearing a face mask. This is the difference between us and the United States. They made a civil rights issue out of wearing a mask. We knew it was necessary if we are to pursue our livelihoods,” said Roque.

Roque said that personally, he would have wanted to reopen the economy sooner, but first there is a need to understand the decision of President Duterte to side with caution and prioritize the health of the Filipinos.

The secretary believes that Cebu will show the entire country what it would be like to live with COVID-19 and have a bustling economy as the province is the first to reopen its doors to domestic tourists and requiring only the presentation of a medical certificate upon entry at any of its ports.

“Cebu has learned to live with the virus. Cebu has decided to continue with progress,” said Roque.

The presidential spokesperson added that the country must look up to Cebu to see how progress can be made amid the pandemic. / dcb

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