MANILA — Malacañang said on Wednesday it was "in no way diminishing" Vice President Leni Robredo's initiatives to help contain the COVID-19 break, after she called for unity during the crisis.
Robredo in her "Ulat sa Bayan" on Tuesday said the typical "impulse" when problems arise is to assign blame on the opposition and direct internet "trolls" to attack. She also said "The Filipino came to their fellow Filipino's rescue" in the pandemic.
"We welcome the initiatives of the Vice President in the fight against COVID-19. which she enumerated in her Ulat sa Bayan and we are in no way diminishing her efforts in this trying time," Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in reaction to Robredo's report to the nation.
"Any contribution, including policy recommendations from the political opposition, to ensure the successful fight against the pandemic, is much appreciated," he said in a statement.
He noted that President Rodrigo Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address on Monday, "personally paid tribute" to frontliners who provided essential health services, ran food chain supply, boosted economic activity, and ensured peace and order in the crisis.
"The Palace is one with the Vice President in her Ulat sa Bayan message that in this challenging time of COVID-19, it is the Filipinos who helped and came to the rescue of fellow Filipinos," he said.
"We reiterate: Now is the time to focus on COVID-19 and help the national government in achieving population protection; so together, we will recover and have a happy Christmas and a better future for all Filipinos," added the official.
In August 2020, Duterte claimed Robredo would "just destroy government," hours after she made suggestions on how to rescue the economy from recession due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Roque in November 2020 thanked the Vice President for her suggestion to list the potential recipients of COVID-19 vaccines. But he said Duterte was already "10 steps ahead" because the government has identified recipients.
WHAT ROBREDO SAID
The Vice President on Tuesday thanked Filipinos who helped with her office's initiatives for personal protective equipment, free transportation, community learning hubs, a job-matching platform, housing for typhoon survivors, and telemedicine, among others.
"The OVP does not have a large budget; unlike other agencies, we don’t have an expansive political machinery. Our budget is trust; our machinery, a people willing to give of themselves," she said.
"Can you imagine what more we could have accomplished if everything, including decisions and policies of the government, was oriented towards this same bayanihan spirit?"
Robredo said her office would post online policy recommendations which experts helped craft.
"Our point: If it hasn’t been done yet, begin; if it’s already being done, intensify. There is no debate as regards the reality: Much is left to do to address, and lift ourselves up from, this pandemic," she said.
"Which is why we have persistently reiterated our message: There should be no other priority but the pandemic and its effects. We need all hands on deck and laser-like focus."
With some 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus infections, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 tally in Southeast Asia. Local transmission of the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant is threatening to spawn another wave of infections.