JOINT Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar yesterday said that all police commanders across the country have been told to maximize the implementation of their existing quarantine protocols to prevent a repetition of the deadly twin bombings in Jolo, Sulu and in the wake of the government decision to open more business establishments in the country.
The official said the directive was particularly issued to commanders in Metro Manila and Highly-Urbanized Cities in the country.
Eleazar said there is a need to further beef-up police presence in all business districts in the country amid a decision of the National Task Force on COVID-19 to allow the opening of more shops and stores to help boost the economy starting last Tuesday.
He said that with the decision, all police commanders should anticipate that more people would also go out as several business establishments that were closed for a long time due to the strict implementation of community quarantine are expected to resume operations starting September 1.
They include testing and tutorial centers, review centers, gyms and fitness centers as well as personal grooming and pet grooming shops.
“The easing of restrictions is for the sake of our economy. It does not mean that we should also lower our guard. The threat of coronavirus infection is still there so we should always be alert and continue doing our mandate of protecting the public from virus transmission,” said Eleazar.
Eleazar likewise said the existence of Quarantine Control Points (QCPs) at the borders of cities and provinces is already a part of the target hardening measures as policemen manning the checkpoints are mandated to check all the passing motorcycles and other vehicles.
“Since March 17, we have set up and further improved security measures to enforce quarantine rules. These measures could be maximized by our local commanders to protect their respective Areas of Responsibilities (AORs) against any terror threat,” he said.
Apart from the QCPs, other existing measures that could be capitalized are the intensified police visibility especially in business districts and places of convergence and the requirement for a Travel Authority before any person could cross the borders of provinces and regions.
Those measures were implemented to contain the movement of the people and eventually prevent the transmission of the coronavirus disease COVID-19).
Eleazar said these existing protocols could be used to lessen or deny terror groups the opportunity to carry out terror attacks in other places outside where they are currently holed up.
“The good working relationship we have established with the Local Government Units (LGUs) on the community level enforcement of the quarantine protocols also transformed the LGU’s own security officers like barangay tanods to be alert especially against strangers or new faces entering their respective communities,” he explained.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander said among the initiatives that were initiated by the LGUs are the regular conduct of patrol especially places of convergence and the strict implementation of curfew in most parts of the country.
Gamboa earlier vowed to mobilize all available security forces in pursuit operations against those responsible for the twin bombings in Sulu.
But despite the existing strict security measures, Eleazar said they will not lower their guard against any terror groups.
“With what happened in Jolo, your JTF COVID Shield has also the responsibility to shield the people not only from the threat of the COVID but also from criminal elements and terror groups using the manpower and resources that we have,” he said.
“We urge our partners in the LGUs to join us in maintaining our vigilance and in being alert at all times against all the possible threats that would compromise the safety and security of our people,” he added.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield is the enforcement arm of the National Task Force on COVID-19. It is composed of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection.