MANILA (UPDATED) - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday called for "clear, concrete suggestions" on improving the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic after 14 senators demanded his resignation.
Duque said he did not understand the supposed "lack of leadership" that senators cited in a resolution that asked him to step down from his post.
"Hindi ko po alam kung ano pang dapat kong gagawin. Ginawa naman po natin lahat ng magagawa natin," he told DZMM.
(I don't know what else I should do. We did everything we could.)
The Philippines, he said, was among the first countries to impose lockdowns and ban travel to and from China and parts of South Korea to halt the spread of the respiratory disease.
The health department also beefed up its COVID-19 testing capacity to 16 laboratories from just one facility, he said.
Duque added the government also successfully repatriated hundreds of Filipinos from a coronavirus-struck ship in Japan and Wuhan in central China, where the respiratory disease first emerged late last year.
"Siguro maganda sabihan nila kung anong tingin nila ang pagkukulang at mas maganda siguro na merong malinaw, konkretong suhestyon para mapag-aralan," said the Health chief.
(Perhaps it will be good if they identify shortcomings and it will be better if they give clear, concrete suggestions that could be studied.)
Duque conceded that there were delays in the importation of safety gear for health workers, 1 million units of which arrived only this month, which he attributed to huge global demand.
"Siyempre ako na mismo ang aamin, meron din akong mga pagkakamali at ako'y humihingi ng paumanhin kung ako'y nagkamali," he said.
"Pero sa problema kasi ng COVID-19 dahil como bago ito, wala naman tayong ma-refer na past experience kung papaano ba tutugunan itong virus na ito. Dahil 4 months old pa lang itong virus na ito, pakapa-kapa pa rin ang buong mundo, hindi lang tayo," he added.
(Of course, I will admit that I have mistakes and I apologize if I was wrong. However, because the COVID-19 problem is still new, we don't have any past experience we can refer to on how to address this. Because the virus is just 4 months old, the whole world is still unsure, not just us.)