MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said it has not yet received a categorical and official response to extend the nationwide state of calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly a month since it made the request.
DOH officer-in-charge Ma. Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum that despite this, her agency was still preparing parallel plans to continue the country's pandemic response should the state of calamity be lifted.
Vergeire said they were basing their parallel plans on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s earlier pronouncements that he was "hesitant" to extend the COVID-19 state of calamity in the Philippines.
"Indirectly, the President has already verbalized in one of his media outings that he's very hesitant to extend the state of calamity. And coming from there, from his statement, we are already preparing a parallel so we can still continue on with the other things that we do for this response," she told reporters.
Vergeire also noted that so far, the response the DOH got from their request was a meeting with officials from the Office of the President on Dec. 23, where they discussed implications and possible options the government could take should the state of calamity be lifted.
She further said that even if the state of calamity would not be extended, the DOH would still continue administering COVID-19 vaccines to the public.
Under the law, Vergeire said, the DOH still has a year after the lifting of the state of calamity to distribute vaccines approved through emergency use authorization (EUA).
Last December, Marcos Jr. said that the Philippines was "not in a state of calamity anymore, technically speaking."
"And that is the wrong mindset to be approaching the new year with. So we’re still trying to find ways to continue to provide the benefits to our medical health workers which is the main issue without the state of calamity," he had said.
This was after the DOH requested his office for the extension, expressing concern that they would be "losing the different response strategies that we are doing right now" related to the pandemic.