In President Rodrigo Duterte's press conference aired via live telecast on March 12, 2020, he enumerated the measures the government is undertaking to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Part of the measures that will take effect on March 15 until April 14, 2020, is the placement of Metro Manila under community quarantine.
The announcement left residents within and outside the region buzzing with questions:
If I'm an employee living outside Metro Manila, will there be public vehicles that would take me to and from the National Capital Region (NCR)?
The Department of Interior and Local Government Secretay Eduardo Año answered the citizen's queries in an interview with Alvin Elchico and Doris Bigornia in DZMM on the same day of the President's press conference.
Año said, "Hindi naman total lockdown, we are just restricting movement specially coming in and going out of Metro Manila kasi unang-una, ayaw na nating mag-spread itong virus from Manila going outside of Metro Manila.
"Kasi mas mahirap kapag iba't-ibang probinisya at region ma-spread iyong virus."
Año assured the public that buses will continue operating within and outside NCR based on the guidelines that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is yet to release.
"Diyan naman papasok ang DOTr para mag-impose ng measures para ma-enhance ang sinasabi nating social distancing," he said.
"Halimbawa iyong mga bus, hindi na sila puwedeng mag-full load diyan, dapat may kaukulang space."
Año emphasized, "Ganoon din sa mga MRT, LRT, patuloy pa rin iyan pero may mga measures na ipapalabas ang DOTr kung paano mapapakita, ma-e-enhance iyong sinasabi nating social distancing...
"Kasama nang finactor iyan para hindi naman masabing absolute restriction
"Kailangan lang ng additional precautionary measures—maskara, hand sanitizer na kailangan natin."
Año added that private vehicles will also be allowed to enter Metro Manila, provided that the riders are also employees working within the region.
"Kung naka-kotse iyong nag-wo-work, kasama siya sa papayagan.
"Basta nag-wo-work siya."
Will there be checkpoints along the way?
Año clarified that employees outside Metro Manila must pass through a checkpoint prior to riding public transportation to their office.
The same goes for private vehicles that are going to enter the vicinity.
He detailed, "Iyong mga sinasakyan na by land ng mga nagtatrabaho, mag-a-undergo sila ng checkpoint...
"Kasi we want to prevent iyong hindi naman nagtatrabaho dyan, iyong galing sa ibang probinsya tapos papasok dyan sa Manila, e, di merong risk of being contaminated kapag hindi sila lumabas."
The public official said that employees will be required to present their company ID in these checkpoints as proof of their employment in Metro Manila.
In a separate interview that Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Jojo Garcia had with Pinky Webb of CNN Philippines today, he mentioned that motorists must provide contact details at checkpoints for record purposes.
Garcia detailed, "For example provincial buses, madaling imonitor iyan.
"Pagsumakay diyan, kailangan ilagay mo ang pangalan mo, address, at contact number kasi ang napaka-importante sa virus na ito, iyong contact-tracing kung tawagin—na kung ikaw, biglang nag-positive ka [sa COVID-19], kailangan alam kung saan ka galing at sino iyon.
"Kasi kaya mabilis kumalat ang COVID compared to SARS—ang sabi ng isang doctor—kasi ang SARS, malakas ang [mortality] rate. Kapag nagkarooon ka, mamamatay ka kaagad."
I am not an employee, but a business owner with dealings inside Metro Manila. Will I be allowed to enter the area?
Año confirmed that the travel exemption for employees working within Metro Manila will apply even to business owners with transactions in the area.
He said, "Iyan iyong ipinaglaban ng economic cluster natin... iyan talaga iyong hindi dapat mahamper ang pagtatrabaho."
The heads of Department of Budget and Management, Department of Public Works and Highways Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Energy , Department of Science and Technology, Department of Tourism, Department of Agriculture, and National Economic and Development Authority comprise the economic cluster.
COMMUNITY QUARANTINE WILL ONLY RUN "FOR A MONTH"
Año reiterated that community quarantine will be implemented "only for a month" for everyone's safety.
He said, "Ito naman ay for a month, ano, at every day naman ay nagmi-meet iyong IATF. Nag-a-adjust tayo kung kinakailangan.
"Pero we have to do all the sacrifices—all of us—for a month. Hindi kasi biro itong nangyayari.
"Alam mo, what happened in Italy, ganito sila noon nung fresh pa iyong case, maliit pa iyong number, maluwag sila.
"Pero ngayon, the entire nation is in complete lockdown kasi hindi na nila kayang mahabol sa rami ng infected at namamatay."
Año also cited the warning of the World Health Organization (WHO) on its projection if preventive measures are not followed by the citizenry.
He said, "There is a projection from WHO, with the trend now, kung wala tayong gagawing measures—concrete measures—ang exponential ng cases natin, ang estimate nila is 75,000 positive cases, with the high percent with severe or serious and then three percent ang puwedeng mamatay.
"How many? Mga 2,250. Ayaw na nating umabot sa ganyang situation na katulad ng nangyari sa Italy.
"So, sabi nga, it's a bitter pill to swallow but the President has decided that we really have to do it."
In his press conference enumerating the general guidelines in the country's fight against COVID-19, President Duterte announced the suspension of classes in all levels in Metro Manila until April 12, restriction of planned or spontaneous mass gatherings, recommendation to implement flexible work arrangement in the private sector, and the ban on "land, domestic air, and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila."
The President clarified that concerned government agencies are yet to release detailed guidelines in the coming days: "So tandaan ho ninyo iyan. Pero subject again to review day to day. Tignan namin kung ano ang nangyayari."