Iligan’s appeal for ECQ as COVID-19 cases surge denied

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 18 Aug) – This city remains in Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) starting Monday as the National COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force did not act on Iligan’s request to impose an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) after a surge of cases in the past few weeks.

A locally stranded individual arrives in Iligan City. MindaNews file photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

As of Monday, Iligan’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Health Cluster reported a total of 161 confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, 98 of which, or 60.9 percent, were from local transmission.

The EOC further reported that 30 were admitted in hospitals, 59 in isolation facility, 8 in home quarantine, and there have been 61 recoveries and 3 deaths.

On Monday alone, the EOC recorded 18 new cases, the highest so far, and 17 of which were from local transmission.

Iligan Mayor Celso Regencia told a radio station that the city will still be under MGCQ status instead even if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Dr. Adriano Suba-an, regional director of the Department of Health in Northern Mindanao, said the request of Mayor Regencia last Saturday was forwarded to the National Inter-Agency Task Force in Manila for approval.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in his announcement Saturday night, said all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities will be under MGCQ from August 16 to 31.

Regencia sent a team of doctors and councilors to neighboring Cagayan de Oro City for consultation with Mayor Oscar Moreno on how to manage the rising cases in Iligan City.

The meeting was held closed doors at the Cagayan de Oro City Hall with Mayor Moreno and his medical team in attendance.

Moreno has offered help and the use of more isolation units in his city as Iligan faces rising cases of infections.

He also directed the police not to stop COVID-19 patients from coming to the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), the region’s main public hospital and main referral medical facility for COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Gina Itchon, head of NMMC´s research and development department, said the hospital is capable of accommodating the influx of COVID-19 patients from Iligan.

Itchon said they had prepared way back in March when the country went into a state of public health emergency.

“We came out with the number 209, which means if we receive 209 COVID-19 cases a day then our health care capacity is overwhelmed,” she said.

Itchon said that fortunately, that did not happen.

Meanwhile, Judge Arthur Abundiente, of Regional Trial Court Branch 25 in Cagayan de Oro City, said over Brigada News FM Iligan “Tira Brigada” public affairs program that a local government unit can issue its own executive order to protect the welfare and security of the general public even as the national government told LGUs to follow the National IATF’s guidelines.

“In this time of pandemic the local government unit can impose a law even without necessarily asking permission from the National IATF,” said the judge who once taught law at the Mindanao State University College of Law’s Iligan extension.

Abundiente said that it can be exercised under the principle of “Salus populi suprema lex esto” (the welfare of the people should be the supreme law).

The judge also cited Section 16 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160) as basis for LGUs to have their say in times of pandemics: “Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.” (Richel V. Umel, with reports from Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)