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The national inter-agency taskforce for the management of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases recently decided to downgrade the previous enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to either modified ECQ or general community quarantine (GCQ) Luckily, Benguet and Baguio City were reclassified from high risk areas to moderate risk areas and thus, join the other Cordillera provinces under GCQ status during this period of aggressive fight against the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) that has been declared by health experts as a global pandemic.

Last May 1, 2020, the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Ifugao, Mountain Province and Kalinga, including the component city of Tabuk, were declared under GCQ status after they were classified by the task force as low risk areas. The provinces of Apayao, Mountain Province and Kalinga, recorded zero COVID-19 cases since the implementation of the Luzonwide ECQ last March 17, 2020. The GCQ areas were already able to gradually start their long journey to recovery in most aspects of governance and development while strictly adhering to the overall guidelines for the transition process. While there are a good number of business and other activities that were allowed to operate under GCQ, there are also some business and other recreational activities that continue to be non-operationaldespite the clamor of the concerned sectors for these to resume their operations because of the considerable loss in income and potential contributions to the economy by these businesses.

What will be significant during the GCQ status of the Cordillera local governments is the calibrated resumption of mass public transportation as there was total suspension of the activities of this sector during the ECQ, except those allowed under the rules to provide transport services for health workers and people in the barangays during their scheduled market days in the urban areas. The operation of the mass public transport even if minimal will definitely trigger aspects of the gradual recovery of the overall economy and for operators and drivers to have a minimum source of income. What has to be resolved, though, is the amount of fare that should be collected from passengers to allow the drivers and operators to have some decent income but at the same time comply with physical distancing as their usual full load will be cut into half thereby significantly reducing their daily income.

Incidentally, Filipinos in the different parts of the world are known to be resilient coping and eventually overcoming difficult experiences and challenges in their new environment. Filipinos working overseas are known to be reliable members of the work force of their employers earning them the respect of their foreign superiors. We are certain that even with the staggered resumption of business and economic activities under GCQ, there will likely be a resurgence of the vibrance of the local, regional and national economy as Filipinos are industrious, hardworking, patient and resilient so they provide the best for their families. The downgrading of the ECQ status of localgovernments to GCQ is just the initial start of what will be an uphill climb to success because everyone had been heavily impacted by the implementation of the extended ECQ thatsaw most of the business crumble in crunch time.

However, the virtual stoppage of economic activities that resulted to the huge loss in jobs and the sources of livelihood should motivate us to embrace the expected new normal with confidence and with hope for the best as we now attempt to hurdle the challenges where the ECQ has left us.

We had faced numerous challenges caused by natural and man-made disasters in the past several decades but nothing compares to what we had experienced during the ECQ because it was the bread and butter of the populace that had been heavily impacted and people are now trying to ascertain where to start and how to bring back the vibrance of the economy. Resilience will be the key to success during these trying times and Filipinos are blessed to have such time-honored and age-old proven virtue through generations. Our success in this battle to recovery will depend on how resilient we are in our effort to pick up the pieces from where we left off so that even in a calibrated manner, income-earners can gain the confidence of employers to provide them adequate compensation, and small- to medium-scale businesses and those self-employed can resume their sources of livelihoods through these difficult times, especially that the scientist have yet to discover the proper cure for the virus.

Our resilience will surely get us through the global pandemic and the lessons we learned by being under quarantine should serve as lessons to embrace the new normal, re-prioritize our wants to what is essential, reconfigure our lifestyles and relations, and reflect on our humanity and our role in this planet. We must not waste the great lessons learned this time and seize the opportunity for initiating the genuine change in ourselves and our society. Otherwise, we simply continue to annihilate ourselves. No war is worse than this.