Senator laments non-extension of COVID-19 state of calamity

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2023 08:14 PM

Sen. Pia Cayetano. Bibo Nueva Espana/Senate PRIB
Sen. Pia Cayetano. Bibo Nueva Espana/Senate PRIB

MANILA -- Sen. Pia Cayetano on Tuesday enumerated the negative effects of ending the country's "calamity" status amid the COVID-19 pandemic as she questioned the administration's signal for its non-extension. 

The Philippines’ COVID-19 state of calamity lapsed on Dec. 31, 2022 after over 2 years of repeated renewal through several proclamations.

"There are important provisions under the laws... that are anchored on the declaration of the state of calamity and/or public health emergency by the President of the Philippines. And that is the reason DOH emphasized that without such extension, it would affect the implementation of different COVID-19 response strategies of the government," Cayetano said in a privilege speech.

The Department of Heath (DOH) had repeatedly asked President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to extend the declaration as they warned of "losing the different response strategies that we are doing right now" in relation to the pandemic.

Among them are the inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines, validity of emergency use authorization of COVID-19 drugs, and emergency hiring and allowance of healthcare workers.

But Marcos, in response, said "we are not in a state of calamity anymore, technically speaking," adding that it that is "the wrong mindset to be approaching the new year with."

EFFECTS

Cayetano explained that without a state of calamity, it would take so much longer for the country to procure vaccines.

"So if there will be another variant in the future, without a law, hindi pwede mag-negotiate. Magbi-bidding. And that would take a long time," she said.

She also said that the number of COVID-19 vaccinators will significantly drop since "those people who are administering the vaccines had a special authority."

"Section 9 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act specifically says that, it allowed licensed pharmacists and midwives who are duly trained by the DOH to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Without that, hindi sila pwedeng magbakuna. So kung magkakaroon ng surge, wala tayong vaccinators. We don’t have the same amount of vaccinators because they will not be allowed," Cayetano said.

Cayetano asked for her privilege speech to be tackled by the Senate panel on health in order for senators to "determine what laws need to be enacted to ensure that we learn the lessons."

"Let us be vigilant and decisive and responsive to the task at hand, which is to ensure that we are ready for any not even COVID alone, but for future pandemics, health emergencies. And let us pass the laws that will allow our technical people, our health workers, our frontliners, to respond with haste and responsibly as well," she said.

Since the pandemic, the country has logged over 4 million coronavirus infections, of which some 65,000 led to death. 

Latest DOH data also showed that around 73.8 million Filipinos were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Of the figure, some 21.2 million have received first boosters while more than 3.8 million have gotten second boosters.