The empty streets of downtown Iloilo City might return to its usual hustle and bustle once the local government decides to gradually lift quarantine rules. But it all depends on the cooperation of the community and indicators and advice from experts. (Arnold Almacen/CMO)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Emme Rose Santiagudo

A multisectoral task force will advise local governments on the gradual reopening of the city and province of Iloilo amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said the COVID-19 task force will be composed of business leaders, medical experts, and the academe.

Treñas said the gradual reopening of businesses aims to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Iloilo City.

“We are forming a task force including members from the business sector in order to study how we can gradually open up our businesses in the city. We are also talking to members of the academe on economics, and other faculties. People need to work,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday.

The mayor said the task force will be composed of the City Health Office (CHO), City Legal Office (CHO), and local business groups such as Iloilo Economic Development Foundation (ILED), Iloilo Business Club (IBC), Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), and mall owners in the metro.

Treñas said he is coordinating with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Health (DOH-6) Regional Director Dr. Marlyn Convocar, and Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr.

The task force will be introduced 2 p.m. today at Casa Real or the Old Iloilo Capitol.



According to Treñas, he aims to resume business operations in the metro by May 1 to help workers who were displaced and establishments that were forced to close due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Ang akon ginapangayo kooperasyon because we have to open already by May 1. Naluoy ako sa pumuluyo ta nga nadulaan na trabaho,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday.

The mayor said the final decision of lifting the expanded ECQ and the reopening of businesses will be based on indicators like number of positive cases and local transmission in the metro.

Ang indicators will be the number positive cases, cases of local transmission, and our testing capabilities,” he said in a press conference on Thursday.

Even if the city reopens, Treñas said COVID-19 mass testing will continue.

“If we open, we will have to keep on testing from time to time. We have rapid test kits that were donated so we will fully use it,” he said.

Based on Case Bulletin No. 21 of the Department of Health-Center for Health Development in Western Visayas (DOH-CHD) 6, Iloilo City has five COVID-19 cases with one death.

Both the city and province of Iloilo are under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) since March 20, 2020 in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The ECQ was supposed to end April 14, but it was extended to April 30 in keeping with the national government’s decision to prolong the same measure in Luzon.

Treñas earlier called for the community’s cooperation with ECQ rules such as physical distancing and curfews so that the city can gradually return to normalcy by May 1, 2020.

The mayor said he wants people to return to work, particularly the most vulnerable sectors like daily wage earners.

The mayor said the COVID-19 crisis will remain even if the city and province decide to ease ECQ rules, thus the task force’s role is very important in ensuring the safety of Ilonggos.

Treñas had upped ECQ rules by issuing Executive Order (EO) No. 63 which imposed a weekend block off during the remaining Saturdays and Sundays of April.

Under the expanded ECQ, no person shall be allowed to go out of their houses on April 18 to April 19 and April 25 to April 26, 2020.

Exempted from the expanded ECQ are residents who need to go to either the hospital or pharmacy or drug store provided that they have a quarantine pass and wear a mask in public; health care personnel provided they present an identification card; and media practitioners provided that they shall first secure a permit from the city government.

The expanded ECQ also exempts essential government personnel, Iloilo City Emergency Response Team, and other personnel from the city government as ordered by the mayor.

During the expanded ECQ, all establishments and business operations of whatever nature (including sari-sari stores, talipapas, and small-scale convenience stores) shall be closed except for hospital, drug stores, medical clinics, and funeral services.

Establishments that operate beyond 8 p.m. may be allowed to operate during the period of expanded ECQ provide that they shall provide for the accommodation of their personnel who render work during this period.

All borders of Iloilo City including land and sea borders shall also be closed during said dates.