Sleeping on the job? Palace defends gov't response to coronavirus pandemic

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2020 04:38 PM

(L-R) National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Secretary Vince Dizon, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, and Interior Undersecretary RJ Echiverri arrive before a press briefing of the IATF-EID at the Quezon Memorial Circle, July 30, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's administration cannot be criticized for supposedly sleeping on the Philippines' coronavirus pandemic response, Malacañang said Tuesday, a day after the country recorded its highest single-day tally of virus infections.

While the Philippines may not be as successful as other countries in containing the spread of COVID-19, its government is working hard to improve its pandemic response, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“We may not be as successful, but I can assure you, everyone is working darn hard to find a solution to the problem,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

"Kung magkulang man, well, pagpasensyahan po pero hindi niyo po maaakusa ang gobyernong ito na natutulog sa pansitan," he added.

(If there are shortcomings, bear with us but you can't accuse the government of sleeping on the job.)

The government-- which employs a test, trace, treat approach--has been urged to revisit its pandemic response strategy as the country continues to see a surge in infections.

Despite having one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world, the Philippines continues to grapple with a surge in COVID-19 cases, recording a record-high of 6,958 additional cases in a single day on Monday. Cases reached nearly 140,000 on Tuesday.

The lockdowns have also bruised the economy, which shrank by 16.5 percent in the second quarter, plunging into recession for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Roque agreed with Vice President Leni Robredo that the surge in virus infections is due to local transmission of the disease.

"Talaga pong may community transmission pero kaya nga po pinaigting natin ang testing para ma-isolate natin at matigil natin ang pagkalat ng sakit," Roque said.

(There is really community transmission but that's why we're improving our testing to isolate those who are sick and stop its spread.)

President Duterte has relied mostly on retired military generals to lead the country's pandemic response, with the likes of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Peace Process Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has confirmed 139,538 COVID-19 cases, including 2,312 deaths and 68,432 recoveries.