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No more funds; let Filipinos return to work – Duterte to doctors seeking longer lockdown

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MANILA, Philippines — While he himself would still want to place the country on lockdown, President Rodrigo Duterte said the government had run out of funds to give cash assistance to Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the President’s “dilemma” as some doctors asked for an extension of a stricter lockdown due to the continuing increase in COVID-19 cases.

“I’m between the devil and the deep blue sea,” he said in a taped address aired late Monday night.

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Doctors would want a lockdown to remain to prevent the further spread of the disease. But then many people would want to get back to work, he said.

But the problem is that the funds given by Congress have already run out, Duterte said as he stressed the importance of letting Filipinos return to their jobs to feed their families.

“If I order another lockdown ko, the money given by Congress has been spent to give you aid. I no longer have that. You’re on your own. That’s true. You have to get out and work so you can eat,” Duterte said, speaking partly in Filipino.

At the onset of the pandemic, Congress passed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which provided cash for the assistance of some 18 million low-income families for two months.

“So I’m telling the doctors, much as I want really to give in to your demands, especially the matter of lockdowns: I want it because I do not want the contamination to continue,” Duterte said.

Former adviser of the National Task Force on COVID-19 Dr Tony Leachon had suggested extending the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) over Mega Manila for a month to build up the country’s healthcare capacity. The said quarantine measure is set to lapse on Aug. 18.

But Malacañang pointed out that balancing health and economy should be considered in deciding whether to prolong the stricter lockdown.

On Monday, the Philippines recorded a record-high of 6,958 new COVID-19 infections nationwide, bringing the total to 136,638.

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