Philippines' COVID-19 task force 'failed,' Drilon says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2020 11:52 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte holds a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on May 25, 2020. Ace Morandante, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA - Government's inter-agency task force against COVID-19 has "failed," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Wednesday as he asked President Rodrigo Duterte for a "comprehensive" plan to address the pandemic.

Drilon made the remark as the President is set to physically deliver his penultimate State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday.

"Yes, we call a spade a spade. Look at where we are today, 70,000 cases, increasing every day, the prediction is by the end of the month it’ll be over 80,000," Drilon told ANC when asked if the task force had failed.

"Unfortunately the only solution we see today is the continuous and repeated lockdowns. A lockdown to my understanding is to give us time to plan, to implement things and not an end by itself. Because if it's an end to itself you killed the economy and you killed people because of hunger. I would like personally to hear comprehensive plans on the part of this administration on how do we address this."

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque "lacks credibility to be able to command people to do things," he added.

"The matter of being in the Cabinet, IATF, is a matter of confidence by the President. We can shout to the heavens 'change Duque,' as the Senate has done but the President for reasons of his own has maintained confidence in Duque," Drilon said.

"The influence of Duque and his credibility is something that is lacking today. Therefore, what I’m looking for is a comprehensive plan rather than by going into personalities."

The Philippines as of Tuesday recorded 70,764 cases of COVID-19, with 23,281 recoveries and 1,837 deaths. Several hospitals in virus epicenter Metro Manila have declared full capacity in handling COVID-19 cases.

The country's economic team should also be "in the forefront together with our health sector," Drilon said.

"Let us have a plan, for example on the economic side, how much do we need to stimulate the economy? And where do we source these funds and which side of the equation should we stimulate?" he said.

"Do we increase taxes, borrow some more given the fact that our debt ceiling is already off the roof? I would like guidance from the President. The people would like to see where we stand, where does the government want us to go."

The Philippine economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, the first contraction since 1998 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown.

There was "no question" that the country would head into recession as second quarter predictions are worse, Drilon said.

"For the whole year we will have a contraction of 4 to 4 and a half percent. This means that the next 6 months will be a question of how to survive," he said.