Palace rejects calls to scrap coronavirus task force amid spike in infections

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2021 03:33 PM

Palace rejects calls to scrap coronavirus task force amid spike in infections 1
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on March 22, 2021. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo

MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday rejected calls to abolish the inter-agency task force leading the country's pandemic response, denying incompetence even as the Philippines logged record-high COVID-19 spikes. 

New, more transmissible COVID-19 variants are largely responsible for the surge in cases, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said, quoting health experts and citing similar situations in other countries.

"Tanggapin natin o hindi, nag-mutate po ang mga virus at hindi naman po siguro kasalanan ng IATF na nag-mutate itong mga virus sa pamamaraan na mas nakakahawa sila," Roque, also spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said in a press briefing.

(Whether we accept it or not, the virus mutated and perhaps it is not the IATF's fault that these vaccines mutated so that they are more contagious.)

"Wala pong mabubuwag. ‘Pag binuwag mo ang IATF, it’s as if binuwag mo ang gobyerno," he added. 

(Nothing will be abolished. If you abolish the IATF, it's as if you abolish the government.)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Imee Marcos and Franklin Drilon have criticized the IATF for allegedly mishandling the health crisis, as the Philippines reported a new record-high in daily cases.

"Lumalakas na naman po ang ingay sa pulitika. May ilan na nananawagan pa na dapat daw po buwagin ang Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19," Roque said.

(There's political noise again. Some are calling for the abolition of the IATF on COVID-19).

Roque said the country's fatality rate due to COVID-19 has slid to 1.93 percent. He added that the Philippines runs about 50,000 coronavirus tests daily, up from 3,000 in April last year.

"Hindi po iyan incompetence," he said, adding, "Ang lahat po ng desisyon ng IATF ay nakabase po sa siyensiya."

(That is not incompetence... All decisions of the IATF is based on science.)

Despite government refusal to scrap the IATF, Roque said, "We welcome all suggestions." 

"Pero intindihan n’yo naman walang makakapantay pagdating sa human capital ng IATF dahil buong bureaucracy ng gobyerno ay nagsama-sama po para sa ating response sa COVID-19," he said. 

(But understand, nothing can equal the human capital of the IATF because the whole government bureaucracy worked together for our COVID-19 response.)
Several former military general hold key positions in the IATF. 

"Isang dahilan po kung bakit nagtitiwala ang ating Presidente eh dahil magaling po sa logistics ang ating military," said Roque. 

(One reason that the President trusts the military is because it is good with logistics.)

The Philippines on Monday reported a record daily rise of 8,019 COVID-19 infections, as authorities implemented tighter curbs in the congested capital region and hospital capacity neared critical levels in some areas.

In a bulletin, the health department said total confirmed cases had reached 671,792, while deaths increased by 4 to 12,972. 

"Malalampasan po natin iyan (we can go past that) because we’re using the best talents and minds that we have in the entire government machinery," said Roque. 

Video courtesy of PTV ​