President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire country under a state of calamity and kept price controls already in effect, as the Philippines became the first country in the world to shut down financial markets due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.

The calamity declaration, under Proclamation 929, is effective for six (6) months “unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.”

Under a state of calamity, the national government and local government units can utilize appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund, in their disaster response efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 10. The virus has affected more than 144 countries.

Duterte on Wednesday ordered an “enhanced community quarantine” covering the mainland of Luzon, the country’s largest island, restricting people inside their homes until April 12.

In a separate memorandum circular, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea maintained price controls earlier imposed on goods by the trade and agriculture departments, and ordered a price freeze on medicines and other essential medical supplies.

On Tuesday, the stock and fixed-income exchanges halted operations, but said they would seek exemptions from strict quarantine measures.

“Please be advised that there will be no trading at The Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc. and no clearing and settlement at the Securities Clearing Corporation of the Philippines starting tomorrow, March 17, 2020 until further notice to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19),” Philippine Stock Exchange President Ramon Monzon said in a memorandum.

The main stock index fell nearly 8 percent to 5,335,37 during shortened trading on March 16, reflecting panic-selling in equities in global markets.

The PDS Group, which handles bond trading, also suspended operations. “In line with the current public health emergency and the exclusion of the PDS Group from the exemptions to the enhanced community quarantine, please be advised that all PDS Fixed Income Trading, Clearing and Settlement, Payment and Transfer Operations (PDDTS and RTS), as well as Depository Operations are suspended from today, 17 March 2020, until further notice,” it said.

“Please be advised that the PDS Group is actively seeking an exemption to the enhanced community quarantine from the Inter-Agency Task Force in order for the PDS Fixed Income Trading, Clearing and Settlement, Payment and Transfer Operations (PDDTS and RTS) and Depository to operate under a public health emergency situation,” it added. Rommel F. Lopez /