MANILA – The reopening of cinemas in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) has been moved to March 1 to allow consultations with local officials, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this announcement after Metro Manila mayors expressed apprehension over the reopening of cinemas as it may lead to a spike in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.

Roque said moving the reopening of cinemas to a later date is the result of talks with Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Benhur Abalos, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia, and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

“Ngayon po, ang status nito, ang pagpapatupad po ng pagbubukas ng sinehan kung matutuloy po ay Marso 1. Kinakailangan po ipagpatuloy ang consultations at kinakailangan po bumuo ng guidelines ang mga lokal na pamahalaan bago po mabuksan ang mga sinehan (Now, the status is that cinemas will reopen on March 1),” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

Roque also said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) respects the position of Metro Manila mayors.

“Nirerespeto po ng IATF ang posisyon ng ating mga alkalde, lalong-lalo dito sa Metro Manila. Kaya nga po sa resolution, nakasaad po ‘yun, ito po ay magiging epektibo matapos po ang mga guidelines na i-issue ng mga lokal na pamahalaan lalo na pagdating sa seating capacity ng mga sinehan (The IATF respects the position of mayors, especially those in Metro Manila. That’s why the resolution stated that the reopening of cinemas will be effective after drafting guidelines with local governments particularly when it comes to seating capacity in cinemas),” he said.

He said both the national and local governments agreed on the importance of slowly reopening the economy to recoup job losses due to the pandemic.

“Nagkakaisa po kami na kinakailangan buksan unti-unti ang ekonomiya dahil mas marami na po ngayon nagugutom kesa dun sa mga nagkakasakit o namamatay dahil nga po sa Covid. Pero pinagkakaisahan din po ng IATF na hindi dapat paluwagin ang minimum health standards (We both agree that there is a need to slowly reopen the economy because there are more Filipinos going hungry than those getting sick or dying due to Covid. But we also agree that we cannot ease minimum health standards),” he said.

For her part, Dr. Minguita Padilla, Project Anti-body Rapid Test Kits (Project ARK) suggested putting up outdoor cinemas in parks, empty lots, and other open spaces to help the cinema industry without unduly putting people at risk of Covid-19 infection.

“Kahit bawasan ang mga tao sa loob ng cinema, kasi kulob siya, kasi air-conditioned, maari pa rin ma-infect (Even if we minimize the number of people inside the cinema, because indoor, it’s air-conditioned, people can still get infected),” Padilla said.

The IATF-EID earlier allowed the reopening of cinemas and other business establishments in areas under GCQ starting Monday (Feb. 15) subject to guidelines from the Department of Health and local government units (LGUs).

IATF-EID resolutions are still subject to the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte. (PNA)