So now it's official.
Earlier today, a supposedly official document had been circulating the interwebs, chat groups, and social media, outlining a plan for Metro Manila (as well as provincial quarantines) to help control the spread of COVID-19, now declared to be a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
In a speech by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, he effectively confirmed the documents (known as Resolution 11 by an inter-agency task force led by the Department of Health) by lifting fairly heavily from it and will be elevating it into an Executive Order.
The new measures primarily focus on social distancing; basically avoiding close contact with other individuals. It means restrictions on events and large gatherings, guidelines for localized quarantines and most importantly, domestic travel restrictions to and from the National Capital Region.
Effectively, it is a limited "lockdown" based on a medical quarantine of the National Capital Region, meaning Manila, Pasig, San Juan, Makati, Paranaque, Mandaluyong, Las Pinas, Pateros, Taguig, Marikina, Quezon City, Navotas, Malabon, Valenzuela, Pasay, Muntinlupa and Caloocan.
So what would a travel ban to and from the Metro Manila look like?
For starters, PRRD's speech covered just restricts domestic sea and domestic air travel to and from the NCR; no mention was made of international sea and air travel. Traveling within Metro Manila will be unimpeded, including the continued operation of the major railways within NCR: LRT-1, LRT-2, MRT-3, and the PNR.
The issue, however, is the restriction of land travel to and from Metro Manila for a one month period between March 15 to April 14. That would mean checkpoints and perhaps even closure of selected roads. But which ones?
The roads that will most likely be closed or partially restricted will be expressways that serve as primary land transport routes for the NCR: North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), and the Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX). Being limited access tollways, these will be the easiest to control for authorities mandated to implement the upcoming EO based on the resolution.
Major national highways and national roads could be shut down or would have checkpoints at the very least. This could include the following:
North of NCR: MacArthur Highway/AH26, Quirino Highway
South of NCR: Molino, Daang Hari, Emilio Aguinaldo Highway, Manila South Road
East of NCR: Marcos Highway/Marilaque, Ortigas Extension, Hiway 2000 (C6)
Mind you, these are just the major roads that we presume will have to be manned to implement the Metro Manila quarantine. There are many more smaller roads in between.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is preparing to work out ways to implement the travel ban for Metro Manila, possibly even Mega Manila or the Greater Metro Manila area. According to DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran, the road sector of the DOTr will be meeting tomorrow with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Health (DOH) to work out the guidelines for the restrictions.
The truth is that the confirmation of the land transport restrictions left more questions than answers. One particular concern is can an individual living in Rizal (i.e. Taytay, Cainta) or Cavite go to work in Metro Manila to work? DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano was quoted on a radio show as saying that people living outside of but working in Metro Manila will be allowed to commute into the NCR, though much is still unclear.
We'll have to wait to find out.