MANILA (UPDATE)— President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday said he would extend the state of public health emergency in the Philippines, initially declared because of the COVID-19 outbreak, until the end of the year.
"Maraming mga binibigay sa international medical community kapag state of emergency. World Health Organization is one of them," said Marcos during the health department's vaccination campaign in Manila.
"Kung itigil natin ‘yung state of emergency, matitigil ‘yun. But if we can change — we are looking at amending the law in terms of procurement and all of that in the middle of an emergency. But that will take time. So malamang we will extend it until the end of the year," he added.
A state of public health emergency, first declared by former President Rodrigo Duterte on March 8, 2020, tells localities to address the threat of COVID-19 through the mandatory reporting of fresh cases, intensify government response, enforce quarantine and disease control measures.
"The declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency would capacitate government agencies and LGUs to immediately act to prevent loss of life, utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19, mitigate its effects and impact to the community, and prevent serious disruption of the functioning of the government and the community," Duterte's proclamation read.
Some officials and experts have supported the lifting of the state of public health emergency to revive the pandemic-hit economy.
The Department of Health (DOH) has said government has no authority to lift the public health state of emergency as it was the World Health Organization that declared it.
Duterte's proclamation also stated that it would remain in place "until lifted or withdrawn by the President."
STATE OF PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY VS STATE OF CALAMITY
The state of calamity declaration is different from the state of public health emergency because the former is geared towards the regulation of vaccines, clearance of COVID-19 drugs, and cheap prices of medicines, while the latter empowers local governments to enforce measures to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Government can lift only the state of calamity it declared due to the pandemic, set to lapse on September 12, Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the state of calamity extension would be up to the recommendation of the health department.
Government's emergency procurement, tax exemptions for donors, price controls for COVID-19 drugs and testing kits, and health workers' benefits will cease once the state of calamity ends, according to the agency.
The declaration also empowers local governments to implement the COVID-19 vaccination program and tap emergency funds to respond to the health crisis.