Greater Manila vs ‘NCR Plus’: Questions as gov’t labels areas under GCQ ‘bubble’

March 22, 2021 - 5:26 PM
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Commuters with masks
People wearing protective masks struggle to maintain social distancing as they get on a bus on the first working day in the country's capital since its lockdown to contain coronavirus, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines March 16, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Is it a vitamin? An iPhone model?

Some online Filipinos are wondering why the government introduced the label “NCR Plus” when it placed the capital region and some nearby provinces under a more restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ) to ease the COVID-19 transmission.

The term was based on the new resolution released by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Sunday, which placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal in a stricter quarantine level from March 22 to April 4, 2021.

Under this status, non-essential travel and mass gatherings are not allowed. This includes religious gatherings.

Indoor dining is also not allowed in the “GCQ plus” areas but take-out and food delivery are encouraged. Outdoor dining is allowed but with limited capacity and social distancing in place.

The public can still work but the number of those who can report on-site has been restricted. The private sector is urged to arrange alternative working arrangements for its employees instead.

Public transportation will continue to be operational but passengers are not allowed to eat, talk and make phone calls. Those with COVID-19 symptoms cannot board vehicles as well.

Movement within these areas, including Metro Manila, is not restricted but those not from the ones with a stricter GCQ cannot enter unless they are authorized persons outside of residences (APOR).

READ: Palace: Non-essential travel suspended in and out of Metro Manila, nearby provinces

The Metro Manila Development Authority called these areas under a GCQ “bubble” despite the term being used in places where the virus has been successfully contained.

READ: What ‘bubble’ really means and why GCQ Plus is not much like it

The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, meanwhile, referred to them as “NCR Plus.” Under this definition, NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal are treated as one with the label “NCR Plus.”

The presidential spokesperson said “NCR Plus” could be a “shortcut term” for these areas.

“It is [NCR PLUS], because it’s NCR plus the four provinces,” the spokesman said in an interview with ANC’S Headstart.

“Well, I think it’s a shortcut for Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal Cavite ‘no, so, that we wouldn’t have to repeat the provinces again,” he added.

‘Why not Greater Manila Area?’

The term “NCR Plus” landed on local Twitter’s top trending list on Monday following the NTF’s remark.

NCR Plus
A screenshot of Twitter Philippines’ top trending list as of Monday. (Screenshot from Twitter via Interaksyon)

Online Filipinos wondered why the term was introduced when these areas are also collectively known as the Greater Manila Area.

“There is an existing term referring to Metro Manila + Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — Greater Manila Area (GMA). Kalakhang Maynila was originally meant NCR. But urbanisation went beyond the 1970s borders,” Berniemack Arellano, a history assistant professor from the University of the Philippines- Los Baños, tweeted.

“I’d prefer to call it that way than NCR+. Ano ‘yun, NCR Positive?” he added in response to the new term.

Another Twitter user noted that they fall under the CALABARZON Region and not under the National Capital Region.

“Calabarzon kami ‘te, hindi NCR plus. Hangal HAHAHAHAHA,” she tweeted in response to the Palace’s remark about the word being a “shortcut term” for the areas.

CALABARZON includes Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, three provinces that are under the stricter GCQ. Bulacan is part of Region 3 or Central Luzon.

A Twitter user attempted to introduce herself by using the term.

“Hi. I’m from somewhere NCR plus,” she tweeted.

Another Twitter user quipped that whether an “NCR pro max” will be next in line to be implemented.

“Pro” and “plus” are terms associated with Apple’s iPhone models, such as the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. There are also models like iPhone 8 Plus.

Meanwhile, others poked fun at the term and likened it to streaming service “Disney Plus”. Some took to Twitter to air their humorous take on NCR plus.

Ben&Ben percussionist Andrew De Pano, who joined in posting about the NCR Plus, expressed frustration over the prolonged quarantine phases.

“NCR Plus Ultra. But man, when oh when are things gonna get better? Tired of using humor to deal with frustration cause ‘di na talaga siya nakakatuwa hahaha hay. ‘kapit lang,’ something we’ve been assuring each other for an entire year. How much longer pa though?” he asked.

2019 Bar topnotcher Kenneth Manuel, on the other hand, lamented the crisis communication of the government, also defined as the protocols that enable an organization to effectively communicate during a major threat.

“Grabe the crisis comms of this government? From the confusing names of community quarantines (may extreme enhanced, granular, hard/soft pa), having ‘NCR Plus’, to having oral announcements, written resolutions, and actual implementation ALL DIFFER. Yet it’s the people’s fault,” he tweeted.

Greater Manila Area refers to the contiguous urbanization surrounding Metro Manila.

report said the metro’s traditional residential suburbs were in Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Marikina and Quezon City.

The housing industry boomed as demand from expats, retirees, and overseas Filipino workers to have a more suburban surrounding increased.

This prompted municipalities in Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan to host countless residential projects to provide dwellings for the metro’s growing population, which includes families of OFWs.

This suburban sprawl paved the way for the birth of the Greater Manila Area.