Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte reminded barangay officials to strictly enforce general community quarantine (GCQ) guidelines after clustering and community transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases were observed in some areas.
On Thursday, Belmonte met separately with barangay captains from all 142 barangays, according to district, to reiterate their responsibility in enforcing national and local GCQ regulations to control the spread of COVID-19.
“We have been informed that most of the causes for the spread of COVID-19 cases in areas that were recently placed under special concern lockdown (SCL) were due to various unauthorized activities, which were regrettably preventable,” said Belmonte.
“There were reports that residents in the said areas had drinking sessions, boodle fights, wakes that exceeded limitations in duration and number of attendees, and even played basketball and volleyball,” she added.
She also traced to videoke sessions and birthday parties the causes of transmission in some areas.
The lady Mayor mentioned that additional numbers of COVID-19 cases found in SCL areas were alarming. These were revealed after the conduct of intensive contact tracing, rapid testing, and PCR testing, as part of the health interventions being done by the City during the implementation of the lockdown period.
At the meeting, Belmonte underscored the responsibilities of barangay captains in strictly enforcing within their respective jurisdictions the wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and prohibition of mass gatherings.
Barangays were also directed to make apprehensions against violators, conduct foot patrols to disseminate information to residents, enforce the public safety hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and strictly regulate the sale of liquor which is allowed only between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“We also remind barangay officials that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is constantly monitoring if they are cooperating with the city government. Failure to do so may lead to the filing of administrative cases against both local and barangay officials,” she said.
Belmonte said the City, Philippine National Police and barangays are set to release joint protocols to ensure the smooth coordination and uniform implementation of enforcement procedures and penalties in the communities.
The Quezon City government has immediately ceased activities of seven construction firms and a maintenance service provider facility for health and safety violations and positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Department of Building Official (DBO) head Atty. Dale Perral said one of the seven construction sites recorded positive cases of COVID-19.
The remaining six firms committed violations of Order No. 39 of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), or the safety guidelines for the implementation of infrastructure projects, and the safe workplace guidelines of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The firms will be required to complete quarantine protocols for 14 days and pass further assessment to ensure compliance with health and safety standards before they can resume on-site construction activities.
“As soon as they are cleared, then there will be no problem. The QC government will allow resumption of their operations,” Perral said.
Likewise, the city’s Business Permits and Licensing Department (BPLD) ordered the temporary closure of a maintenance service provider facility after a number of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.
“We have also instructed the immediate decontamination of the establishment to stop the further spread of the virus,” said BPLD head Margarita Santos.
She added that all business establishments within the city are being strictly monitored to ensure compliance with basic operational protocols and to guarantee safe occupancy among workers and the public.
According to Dr. Rolando Cruz, head of the city’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU), employees who tested positive were brought to HOPE community-care facilities while those who were exposed were isolated and put under quarantine on-site.
“No one is allowed to leave the affected construction sites and establishments for 14 days. Representatives of DBO and ESU will visit to check on the status of the workplace and wellness of the affected employees,” said Cruz.
Last May, the national government has issued guidelines for the resumption of construction projects in GCQ areas, including the daily health monitoring of workers, and designation of a safety officer to check safety standards and quarantine protocols.
While the city wants to jumpstart the economy, Mayor Joy Belmonte said it cannot afford to be complacent as it could lead to a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases.
“We want to err on the side of caution. Nais man natin simulan ang muling pagbuhay ng ekonomiya ng lungsod, hindi natin maaaring isantabi ang mga isyung pangkalusugan na maaaring makaapekto sa karamihan,” said Belmonte.
Mayor Joy Belmonte’s first year at the helm of Quezon City was highlighted by various trials, as well as triumphs for Metro Manila’s largest city. Throughout this, Belmonte said that her administration has never lost track, and remained focused on working for the welfare of her constituents, as well as strengthening businesses and communities.
“For the past year, we as a city have had to face many different trials, challenges, and setbacks. But we remain focused, working towards inclusivity, growth, prosperity, and security for our residents, businesses, and communities,” Belmonte said in her Ulat sa Bayan, posted on the Quezon City Government Official Facebook Page.
A few months into her first term in 2019, Belmonte was able to effectively deal with the emergence of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the city, as the deadly disease swept throughout the country and crippled the livestock industry. “Mabilis nating na-kontrol ang sakit na ito, at nakapagbigay tayo ng financial assistance sa mga apektadong hog raiser,” she said.
In the early months of 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic swept across the world, causing ripple effects across all sectors of society. In Metro Manila, Quezon City was the first local government to declare a state of calamity before enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was placed in Luzon and in other parts of the country. With Belmonte’s decisive action, the city’s 142 barangays were able to immediately address the needs of its citizens through their Quick Response Fund.
Belmonte said the city earmarked almost P7 billion for food packs, cash aid and other forms of assistance under its COVID Response program. “Kabilang na dito ang ‘Kalingang QC ‘ para sa ating vulnerable sectors katulad ng senior citizens, persons with disability, solo parents, lactating mothers, transport sector workers at market vendors.”
“The city also came up with its own Social Amelioration Program (SAP) for those who were excluded from the national government’s SAP program, and provided food assistance to residents of areas under special concern lockdown areas,” emphasized Belmonte.
The local government also allotted funds for decontamination efforts, accommodations, equipment, hazard pay for frontliners and test kits, quarantine facilities and hygiene kits for COVID-19 patients and additional equipment for city-run hospitals. As the city adjusts to the new normal, the local government has crafted a comprehensive recovery plan, including the allocation of P2.9 billion for the blended learning in public schools and universities in the city and stimulus packages to support the city’s micro and small entrepreneurs in this time of need.
“We are also focusing on economic recovery. Tayo ang unang lungsod na nagbuo ng P700 million economic stimulus package. Bahagi nito ang wage-subsidy o ayuda ng LGU sa mga empleyado ng qualified micro and small businesses para matulungang maitaguyod ang kanlang mga nagosyo,” stated Belmonte.
With food security as a vital component in the city’s recovery plan, community farms have been established to complement food security needs. “We are turning idle lands into urban gardens where residents can plant and grow their own produce,” said Belmonte, adding that the city will also establish Mobile Soup Kitchen to provide nutritious food to the needy.
The city has also boosted its bike lane project, allocating 161 kilometers of road for the exclusive use of bicycle riders. “Isasabay ito sa ating pedestrianization project upang maging walkable at bike-able city ang QC. Ito rin ang ating paraan para makatulong maging mas madali ang pagpasok ng ating Qcitizens sa kanilang mga trabaho.”
“We are also transitioning and making online the different processes that used to require face-to-face interaction to make it easier and faster for businesses and the general public to engage with city hall,” said Belmonte.
The city’s unified ID system or QCitizen Card that will expand e-services to all residents is also in the pipeline. Belmonte also gave livelihood to tricycle and jeepney drivers who lost their source of income due to COVID-19 by connecting them to digital platforms Foodpanda and Lalamove for their delivery services.
As for the city’s workers, Belmonte has worked for the increase of their salary into minimum livable wage and provided them with permanent positions, especially those with contractual status for decades.
“Alam po namin na hindi naging madali ang nakalipas na taon. Kaya kami po ay taos-pusong nagpapasalamat sa inyong pakikipagtulungan at kooperasyon,” said Belmonte.
“I am proud of our accomplishments as a city, because these are the results of our collective efforts and commitment for positive change,” she ended.
The Quezon City government has recorded a high recovery rate of 60 percent, proving that its intensified trace-isolate-treat strategy is effective in combating coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
According to Dr. Rolly Cruz, head of the QC-Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) of the QC Health Department, the number of recoveries stands at 1,985 among 3,302 cases validated by QC-ESU and District Health Offices as of July 1.
“Dahil mabilis nating naisasagawa ang trace-isolate-treat strategy natin, agad nating naaagapan ang mga kaso ng COVID-19 at nabibigyan ng karampatang atensiyon at pag-aalaga,” said Cruz.
Since June 6 up to present, Cruz said the number of recovered cases in Quezon City has overtaken the number of active cases. In comparison, the National Capital Region’s number of recovered cases is consistently lower than the number of active cases.
Also, the city’s various HOPE Community Caring Facilities are now near capacity because of trace-isolate-treat approach.
“We welcome this situation as this only shows that our trace-isolate-treat method in dealing with the pandemic is effective,” said Mayor Joy Belmonte.
“Dahil epektibo ang ating community-based testing, mas madali nating naihihiwalay ang mga positibo sa COVID-19 para hindi na makahawa pa sa mga komunidad,” she added.
The city’s various HOPE facilities serve as quarantine areas for possible COVID-19 cases and treatment centers for mild to asymptomatic cases.
Based on latest data, HOPE 2, which has a total bed capacity of 294, currently has 285 patients. HOPE 3, for its part, has 78 patients, six less than its capacity of 84 beds.
“The influx of patients is due to the fact that we have identified positive patients from lockdown areas and through contract tracing of ESU,” said Cruz.
“Sa tulong ng ating HOPE facilities ay hindi na-overwhelm ang mga referral hospital natin. Hospitals were able to cater to more critical cases instead,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cruz said that the HOPE 2 facility at Quezon City University will be closed in the middle of August to pave way for possible face-to-face classes in September.
“In place of that, we will be opening two new quarantine facilities at the Quezon City General Hospital (QCGH) and in Talipapa,” said Cruz.
The QCGH facility, set to open in August, will have 350 beds while center that will be established at the Talipapa Senior High School has 76 beds.
“The facility in Talipapa will open next month and will also serve as community testing center,” said Cruz.
The Quezon City Council approved today (Monday) the city’s Sustainable Recovery Plan, containing the policy and program directions the city intends to take in order to bounce back from the negative effects of the community quarantine.
Among several programs in the resolution sponsored by Majority Floor Leader Franz Pumaren is an economic stimulus package that partially subsidizes the salaries of employees of qualified enterprises to help micro and small businesses weather the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mayor Joy Belmonte said the local government has earmarked P700 million for micro and small businesses under the “Kalingang QC Para sa Negosyo” program of the QC Small Business and Cooperatives Development and Promotions Office (SBCDPO) and Local Economic Investment Promotions Office (LEIPO).
“Ito’y isang paraan para makatulong sa mga maliliit na negosyo na matagal din nagsilbi bilang matibay na haligi ng ekonomiya ng ating siyudad,” said Belmonte.
“This program aims to help our micro and small entrepreneurs meet ongoing business costs by providing wage subsidies that can help keep their employees and business operations until they get back on their feet,” she added.
According to SBCDPO head Mona Celine Yap, eligible micro and small businesses stand to receive wage subsidies from July to September.
“Interested enterprises can start applying for the wage subsidy from July 6 to 20, 2020. No application shall be accepted after the application period,” said Yap.
Quezon City-registered micro-enterprises with less than nine employees and/or with an asset size or capitalization of up to P3 million, such as, but not limited to, sari-sari stores, canteens, laundry shops, computer shops, printing shops, among others, may avail of the program.
“Micro enterprises that are forced to suspend or reduce business operations, experienced revenue decrease or loss, those currently operating or plan to re-open by July 2020 can also apply,” Yap added.
Active employees of qualified micro business enterprises, whether regular, probationary, regular seasonal, project-based, or fixed-term, are eligible under the program.
Small businesses registered in Quezon City that have 10-99 employees and/or with an asset of more than P3 million up to P15 million can apply. Guidelines and conditions for qualified small businesses will be released soon. Interested enterprises may apply through the QC E-Service Portal.
“After we validate all submitted information, we will notify all eligible micro and small business enterprises that will receive the wage subsidy,” LEIPO action officer Perry Dominguez said.
Meanwhile, Dominguez shared that this program will help registered small enterprises retain their employees and likewise assist in business operations.
“This pandemic has affected everyone’s financial resources. But through this program, small entrepreneurs will no longer need to let go of their employees and their employees will still be able to provide for their families,” Dominguez said.
The Quezon City government has unveiled its own mobile community testing unit, which will enable it to expand its testing capabilities as part of efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
During its launch, Mayor Joy Belmonte said the modified truck will help complement the city’s strategy of tracing, isolating and testing more residents from various communities.
“With this mobile testing unit, our team can further its efforts in testing more people who need to be isolated immediately,” Belmonte said.
Sponsored by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Quezon City (PCCI-QC), the mobile testing unit will be managed by the Quezon City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (QC-ESU) of the City Health Department.
“We will use this mobile testing unit to test areas with high attack rate, high active cases, and also those areas that are under special concern lockdown,” said QC-ESU head Dr. Rolly Cruz.
Barangay officials and other barangay frontliners will also be prioritized in the testing unit.
The truck will be manned by three to five people and can conduct rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. It has a generator, a mini laboratory, negative pressure, and a self-decontamination area.
Joseph Juico, community testing project manager, expressed appreciation to the support of PCCI-QC in the city’s battle against the pandemic.
“We welcome these donations as an excellent addition to the city-wide efforts of the local government against COVID-19,” Juico said.
Juico added that the mobile testing unit will be able to cover more areas and will be easier to set-up because of lesser logistical requirements.
The city government has beefed up its strategy against COVID-19 by hiring more than 300 contact tracers and health care workers. Additional quarantine facilities are also being prepared for patients.
The Quezon City local government has launched its online legal assistance program to assist residents in need of legal resources, documents, and access to the city’s ordinances amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Even during this pandemic, many of our residents need legal aid -- from drafting legal and business forms and contracts, to understanding legal documents,” Mayor Joy Belmonte said of the Quezon City Online Legal Assistance.
The lady Mayor likened the program, conducted in partnership with online legal resource MyLegalWhiz, to a virtual lawyer ready to provide legal knowledge and assistance anytime.
The program provides free 500 credits to residents of all barangays who will sign up on the website. These credits can then be used to access case summaries, drafts of legal documents, and ordinances.
The website also features Legal Engineer Assistant or LEA which is a digital research assistant that can assist the user in drafting documents. It can also refer residents to an attorney if they need one.
“We welcome this program as an extension of the Office of the City Mayor and the City Legal Department in helping address the legal needs of our residents,” City Attorney Nino Casimiro said.
Atty. Joseph Dexter Feliciano, the man behind MyLegalWhiz, said that the website will also offer general knowledge on COVID-19.
“We know the people need reliable reference during this pandemic. Apart from providing the legal forms, we decided to put COVID-related information as well,” Feliciano said.
Interested residents may access the free legal assistance through the website, www.credits.mylegalwhiz.com.
During her time as Vice Mayor in 2018, Belmonte launched a similar program entitled “Batas QC” program, the first mobile application on local ordinances to spread awareness about the regulations and penalties of local laws.
The Quezon City government has encouraged residents to contribute to its efforts to boost home food security through urban gardening.
"Residents have a chance to help our campaign to ensure that we have enough food amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic," said Mayor Joy Belmonte.
"Sa simpleng pagtatanim sa bakuran ng iba't ibang uri ng gulay, malaki na ang maiaambag nito para masigurong may pagkukunan ng pagkain sa hinaharap," she added.
Belmonte recently signed an Executive Order 32 creating the QC-Food Security Task Force (QC-FSTF) that will oversee and further boost the city’s capability to produce its own food amid the uncertainty brought about by the deadly virus.
Emmanuel Velasco, co-chair of the QC-FSTF, said the city has embarked on various initiatives that will help promote urban gardening, enhance food trade, and food processing.
“The city has started promoting urban agriculture in partnership with the Department of Agriculture through home gardening, community nurseries and urban aquaculture,” said Velasco.
The city recently launched the distribution of #GrowLocal: Libreng Binhi Starter Kits as part of Belmonte's "Joy of Urban Farming" (JOUF) program, which she started during her term as Vice Mayor in 2010.
According to Tina Perez of JOUF, "The city government has disbursed over 12,000 starter kits that contain various kinds of seeds, 2 kilos of organic fertilizer, 3 potting bags, trowel, seedling tray and a guide on proper planting, to be distributed to its residents."
Velasco added that the city government's food security efforts are aligned with the recommendations of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
“Our local efforts for food security are in line with the recommendations of UN FAO representative in the Philippines,” said Velasco.
During a digital forum on food security, Tamara Jean P. Duran, the UN-FAO’s assistant country representative for programs in the Philippines, issued four recommendations to strengthen food security. 1) the establishment of a food security task group, 2) a food resiliency plan for COVID-19, 3) the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program promoting urban agriculture, and 4) support for local produce.
Aside from having its own task force and food resiliency plan, QC supported better access to local produce through its Kadiwa Market and Fresh Market programs.
"Through those projects, local farmers and local vendors have a chance to sell fresh vegetables and fruits, meats and other products to residents at affordable prices?" Velasco explained.
Quezon City, through the Small Business Cooperative Development Office (SBCDO) also recently entered into a partnership with Food Panda and the city’s Tricycle Operators and Driver Associations (TODA) to form PandaTODA, where residents can purchase food online.
The initiative also gives tricycle drivers an alternative source of income amid the limited operation of public utility vehicles due to the general community quarantine (GCQ).
To avoid fraud and to ensure legitimate Persons With Disability (PWDs) will benefit from it, the Quezon City government will implement stricter measures in the issuance of PWD identification cards.
The stringent process is contained in Memorandum Circular No. 16 signed by Mayor Joy Belmonte, who issued the order following reports on the prevalence of fraudulent PWD IDs, including the case of six members of a well-off family that were given IDs in 2018 despite not having any supporting documents.
“These guidelines aim to help prevent fraud in the issuance and use of PWD IDs while ensuring that legitimate PWDs can continue to obtain their IDs in an expeditious manner,” said Belmonte.
“Hindi natin puwedeng hayaang maabuso ang batas ng mga tao na nais makalamang sa kapwa,” she added.
Under the memorandum, the Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PDAO) is tasked to coordinate with a Quezon City government-owned hospital to verify the claim if a PWD declares a having a disability that is not visibly apparent.
“The PDAO will schedule the applicant at one of our hospitals and have them undergo a personal assessment by the appropriate specialist medical doctor,” said Belmonte.
If the doctor confirms the disability, only then will the PDAO issue the PWD ID.
For PWDs with apparent disability, or those with obvious physical manifestation, they only need to submit their latest medical certificate or abstract describing the disability or a photo showing their apparent disability.
“An indigent with a disability, but no medical certificate or abstract, may undergo free examination in one of our hospitals, provided they submit a certificate of indigency from the barangay,” said Belmonte.
Aside from the medical abstract/certificate of verification, PWDs must also submit proof that they are residents of Quezon City, such as a government ID with address or barangay certificate of residency, and 2x2 ID picture.
To avoid a repeat of the incident involving members of a well-off family all with PWD IDs, the PDAO will scrutinize multiple applications from the same household or same address where the disabilities are not visibly apparent and have them undergo verification by a city-run hospital.
Earlier, Belmonte revealed that the culprit behind the issuance of PWD IDs to the six family members has been identified and was already issued a show-cause order to explain his previous action within 72 hours. A permanent employee of city hall, he and the PDAO head and other personnel were ordered back to their mother units during the change in administration in July 2019.
The six were issued PWD ID cards despite being unqualified under Republic Act No. 10754 or An Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of Persons with Disability (PWD). Allegedly, they paid P2,000 each for the said cards.
The Quezon City government will suspend the processing of Persons with Disability (PWD) identification cards tomorrow until Friday to craft new guidelines to eliminate abuse.
“We will use the two days to come up with the needed safeguards to ensure that only those deserving get the PWD cards,” said Mayor Joy Belmonte.
“Our protocols will be revisited and needed controls will be placed so the system will not be abused by greedy and opportunistic individuals,” she added.
The lady Mayor earlier ordered an investigation into the reported issuance of PWD ID cards to unqualified individuals after receiving a report that six immediate members of a well-off family managed to acquire the said cards in 2018 without submitting any of the mandatory requirements.
The six were issued PWD ID cards despite not being qualified under Republic Act No. 10754 or An Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of Persons with Disability (PWD). Allegedly, they paid P2,000 each for the said cards.
Belmonte revealed that the culprit behind the issuance of PWD ID cards to the six was already identified and will be given a show-cause order on Thursday.
“The person behind the issuance of the ID card will be given 72 hours to explain why he shouldn't be held administratively and criminally liable,” said City Attorney Nino Casimiro.
Casimiro said the employee could face a grave misconduct case, which merits a penalty of dismissal from service.