MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday said improving healthcare in the Philippines must be the top priority when a new administration begins in 2022.
Robredo, in a webinar hosted by the Presentation of the Child Jesus Parish, said government officials and public alike should understand that when a new set of national officials is elected next year, the country is likely still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Dahil nasa pandemic tayo, dapat nating tutukan ang ating healthcare system. Number one, kailangan na talaga maampat ang virus. Ang tanong lagi eh, 'what are we doing wrong?' Kasi one and a half years na tayo dito, parang rollercoaster 'yung ating (COVID-19) numbers. Bubuti, sasama, bubuti, sasama," she said.
Robredo stressed that the Philippines cannot move on from the effects of the pandemic as long as the country continues to register a large number of COVID-19 infections daily.
Filipinos should also learn to live with the virus, she said.
"Kapag sinabi kong learn to live, hindi naman papabayaan natin. Gusto ko lang sabihin na willing tayo dapat to shift to a new normal na may recognition na ganito kahirap 'yung pinagdaanan natin," Robredo said.
The Philippines meanwhile needs to declare an "education crisis" due to its bad standing on literacy among countries, the Vice President said.
"Even before the pandemic, ansama na ng standing natin. Last tayo sa reading, second to the last tayo sa Math compared to many other countries," she noted.
A World Bank report earlier bared around 80 percent of Filipino students fall below the minimum level of proficiency for their grade levels. The Philippines was rated last in reading, and second-to-last in science and mathematics, among 79 countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment.
The effects of the country's bad proficiency rate will be inter-generational if not addressed accordingly, Robredo warned.
The Vice President also said the new administration should also focus on poverty alleviation. An official of the Asian Development Bank last April said poverty in the Philippines worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will remain high in 2021.
"Andaming bumalik sa hirap. Andaming nakaahon sana ng kaunti, bumalik nanaman sa hirap ... gusto ko sabihin, andami nating kailangang asikasuhin," she said.
"Hindi na pwede 'yung 'business as usual', kailangan mas dramatic ang paghalughog ng sistema (ng bagong administration) para makasagot siya sa pinagdadaanan natin."
'2022 A VERY BIG OPPORTUNITY FOR FILIPINOS'
Robredo, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and regarded by many as the face of the opposition, said the national elections in 2022 is a "very big opportunity to crush" corruption in government.
The Philippines' current rank in global corruption index is appalling, she said. The country ranked 115th out of 180 countries with a score of 34 out of 100 points, the 2020 Corruption Perception Index showed.
Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International last February noted that the country's efforts to rein in corruption in the country appear to have "stagnated."
"Kapag tiningnan natin 'yung corruption index, talagang nag-worsen 'yung situation sa'tin," Robredo said.
The Vice President earlier called for the opposition to unite and present only one presidential candidate to challenge the administration's bet in 2022.
Robredo earlier expressed her belief that there is danger if the opposition could not unify against the administration's bets.
This is particularly important, she insisted, since the Duterte administration is currently embroiled in massive corruption issues, particularly on the purchase of anti-pandemic supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceuticals worth billions of pesos.
Even after declarations of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and Sen. Manny Pacquiao that they would run for president in 2022, Robredo said she still hopes in unifying the opposition.
"Hind ako pwede mawalan ng pag-asa hanggang may panahon pa," she said, referring to the period filing of certificate of candidacies, which will be on Oct. 1-8.
"Communication channels, not with all candidates but with some candidates are still open."
Amid public clamor for her to run for the presidency, Robredo earlier said she is ready to file her certificate of candidacy if chosen as the bet of a united opposition but she "leaves it up to God."
"Makakatulong na magdasal tayo sabay-sabay kasi Diyos lang naman 'yung nakakaalam kung ano 'yung mabuti e, 'yung magiging desisyon para sa bansa natin ... sa'kin total surrender na," Robredo said.
Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, another Duterte critic, said he would seek the presidency in the 2022 elections if Robredo does not declare her own bid by noon of the last day of filing of candidacies.
Opposition coalition 1Sambayan meanwhile is looking at announcing its presidential candidate for the 2022 elections by the end of the month, one of its conveners said last Saturday.
The faction of PDP-Laban being backed by Duterte has nominated Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go as its presidential candidate next year, but the latter declined.
Duterte, on the other hand, has formally accepted his nomination as its vice presidential candidate.