Malacañang on Monday concurred with the decision of Metro Manila mayors to push back the reopening of cinemas in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) to next month.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the Palace decision was in line with the provisions of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) Resolution No. 90, which allow local chief executives to set their own operations guidelines for the reopening of the said establishments.
“The IATF respects the position of the mayors especially in Metro Manila,” Roque said. “As I said, the opening of cinemas is subject to LGU (local government units) issuance of guidelines.”
The Palace official said the local chief executives of the National Capital Region (NCR) have officially decided to move the resumption of cinema operation to March 1, 2021 instead of February 15, 2021.
He noted areas outside of NCR may already reopen their cinemas as long as their LGUs has the necessary guidelines for it.
Under IATF resolution No. 90, the following establishments will be allowed to operate in GCQ areas: driving schools; traditional cinemas, a and video- and interactive-Game Arcades; libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers; meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions, and limited social events at accredited establishments ofr the Department of Tourism; and limited tourism attractions.
Chairman Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) earlier said the mayors should have been consulted first because they know the “real situation on the ground.”
Abalos, however, stressed, the mayors support the reopening of the pandemic-devastated economy, but want it to be done “gradually.”
“There should be a calibration of both the health and the economic teams with the local government units and all affected sectors,” Abalos said at a news briefing held in MMDA. He said he was set to meet with the National Capital Region (NCR) mayors on Monday night.
For his part, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said that while he understands the need for the economy to reopen, the hard-won gains in fighting the pandemic must be kept. “…With the impending rollout of the vaccines, we may be at the final stretch of this battle against Covid-19 and so we would like to maintain, if not totally increase the gains we have already achieved with our many sacrifices,” Zamora told the BusinessMirror.
Zamora shared the sentiments of his peers that allowing leisure establishments to open should wait a little more.
“Cinemas and game arcades target the younger market, which are not allowed to leave their houses anyway. The risk is also high with these places being enclosed and people confined inside for two hours or more,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pasay City Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano supports the decision of other mayors to defer the reopening of the movie theaters, but insisted that they are working hard to maintain their distinction as one of the cities with the lowest Covid-19 cases in the country.
“While we support the decision of IATF to open some tourism-related businesses to help revive our economy, however, I believe that it is not yet the perfect time for theaters to reopen,” Rubiano said.
According to the mayor, although Pasay City hosts some of the most modern and advanced theaters in the country, she cannot allow them to reopen just yet.
She noted that cinemas are enclosed facilities with air-conditioning system, two of the main ingredients for the virus to spread.
Instead, she suggested that cinemas be reopened after the nationwide immunization campaign is through and vaccines have been proven effective in containing the virus.
Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco, via text message sent through his public information officer, Irish Cubillan said:
“Tuwing may pagluluwag po sa restrictions, parati lang naming sinasabi na dapat base ito sa konsultasyon ng mga health experts at ayon sa science at facts. Kailangan po natin malaman kung ano ang magiging epekto nyan sa kalusugan ng ating mamamayan. Gusto man nating buksan nang tuluyan ang ekonomiya, ayaw naman nating ilagay sa peligro ang ating kalusugan at ayaw din nating bumalik sa paghihigpit sakaling dumami muli ang mga kaso,” Tiangco said.
Act as one
Meanwhile, according to Abalos, the members of the Metro Manila Council, have one voice in the fight against Covid-19.
“If you open the economy, we also need to factor in safeguards. It is a big challenge for the government to help the economy going while keeping the people safe and healthy. The Metro Manila mayors play a big role in this issue,” said Abalos.
“What is important is we act as one. What is important is unity,” he stressed.
At present, he disclosed, the NCR mayors are crafting a recommendation to IATF on the planned resumption of the cinema operations in areas under the GCQ.
In the crafting of guidelines, factors to be considered are the observance of physical distancing, seating capacity of the cinemas, use of air-conditioned units, bringing in of food, temperature inside the cinema, contact tracing, etc.
The MMC, governing body and policy-making body of the MMDA, is composed of the 17 mayors in Metro Manila and representatives from national government agencies.
It’s not just the NCR mayors who fret over the IATF announcement to reopen cinemas and leisure places.
Davao del Sur Representative Mercedes “Didi” Cagas is questioning the decision.
At the weekend, the IATF was reported to have allowed traditional cinemas, driving schools, video and interactive-game arcades, libraries, archives, museums, and cultural centers; meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, and limited social events to re-open and expand their operations, effective February 15. Moreover, the increase to 50 percent of a venue’s capacity for religious gatherings, up from the present 30 percent will also be allowed.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said that all of these will be subject to implementing guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health (DOH) and concerned local government units (LGUs) where they are located.
Cagas noted the growing evidence showing airborne transmission of Covid-19 in enclosed spaces. Experts have warned of the danger of spreading droplets carrying the virus within enclosed spaces including cinemas, restaurants, and the like.
With Jonathan Mayuga