NTF spox defends IATF, says abolition calls ‘too late in the day’


Posted at Mar 23 2021 04:36 PM

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MANILA - The spokesperson of the National Task Force on COVID-19 (NTF) on Tuesday defended the Inter-Agency Task Force on coronavirus response amid calls of several lawmakers to abolish the agency for its alleged failure to stem the surge in infections. 

“Siguro ho too late in the day para gawin 'yan,” said NTF spokesperson Restituto Padilla.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III had suggested to let doctors take charge if the IATF could not handle the situation properly. 

Sen. Imee Marcos, meanwhile, said that the panel has been issuing confusing health protocols instead of working to bring down the number of new COVID-19 infections in the country. 

She also pointed out that the panel has been imposing lockdowns and arrests of violators but lacks policies on the medical, scientific and testing fronts. For his part, Sen. Franklin Drilon said many people are dying because of incompetence.

But Padilla said the IATF has experts within working groups.

“Hindi naman po totoo na walang dalubhasa na nagbibgay ng abiso. Lahat po ng working group na nagrerekomenda sa IATF, nagbibigay ng mga kailangang ipasang panukala kung saka-sakali, at mga rekomendasyon kung anong gagawain ay nanggagaling po sa mga eksperto, mga siyentipiko at mga dalubhasa,” said Padilla.

(It's not true that there are no experts that give advise. All the working groups that make recommendations to the IATF, those recommendations came from experts.)

The IATF is mostly manned by former military generals and Cabinet secretaries who either have no or limited background in medicine and public health.

“In fairness to government, it may be lead by secretaries who are not in the field of epidemiology or science, but definitely, madami pong working group na nandyan na ang mga nagli-lead po mga doctor, mga epidemiologists, mga siyentipiko at mga iba pang mga eksperto,” he said in an interview on TeleRadyo on Tuesday morning.

(In fairness to government, it may be lead by secretaries who are not in the field of epidemiology or science, but definitely, many working groups are lead by doctors, epidemiologists, scientists and other experts.)

The IATF is co-chaired by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles. The NTF, meanwhile has Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as chair, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año as vice chair and Secretary Carlito Galvez as chief implementer, all of whom are former generals. 

The government this week placed Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite and Bulacan in a pandemic bubble in a bid to prevent further virus spread, restricting movement out of the zone until April 4.

Officials believe this would result in an at least 25 percent drop in COVID-19 cases.

“Ang pinanggagalingan ng surge is people movement. Kaya nagkakahawaan ho dahil may contact po ang tao pagka sila’y nagko-commute at hindi diligently nago-observe ng health protocols, maaari pong masingitan ng virus,” Padilla said.

(The source of the surge is people movement. The virus spreads because there’s contact when people commute, and they do not diligently observe the health protocols.)

The situation gets more complicated because of the presence of highly infectious new variants.

“Kaya 'pag nag-reduce ng movement ng mga tao, sakaling napatibay natin 'yung enforcement, naniniwala po ang mga eksperto na mapababa po ito ng ganung porsiyento,” said Padilla.

On Monday, the Philippines recorded a daily rise of 8,019 COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 671,792.

“Kaya ang sa amin lang po, patuloy na pakiusap sa taong bayan dahil ito po 'yung panahon na dapat medyo itabi natin 'yung batikusan at ang tulungan at bayanihan ho ang pairalin,” he said.

- TeleRadyo 23 March 2021