Palace asks all sectors to unite, help gov’t end COVID-19 pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021   •   174

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has urged all sectors in the country to unite and help in government efforts to combat the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the appeal as he cited measures implemented by the government to slow down the virus transmission and shrugged off criticism over the Duterte administration’s handling of the public health crisis.

In a statement, Roque said the government has intensified testing, tracing, isolation, treatment, and vaccination efforts to address the COVID-19 spike.

Citing global data, the Palace official said that the Philippines ranks third after India and China in terms of tests per million population, while in terms of total tests conducted, the Philippines is second after Indonesia among ASEAN countries, with more than 10, 421,636 tests conducted, as of April 5, 2021.

“We have a weekly average of 52,565 tests from April 4-10, and reaching a high of 63,839 tests conducted last April 8, 2021,” Roque added.

On tracing, Roque said the government has strengthened and improved the use of Staysafe.ph system by using automatic contact tracing through Smart Messaging System and the supplementation of around 27,672 contact tracers in the NCR Plus.

The NCR Plus refers to the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna. The area was previously placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 11 due to a surge in coronavirus infections and later reverted to modified ECQ until April 30.

Malacañang also said that the government built more facilities to augment the need for quarantine centers.

“On isolation, the Department of Public Works and Highways continue to build facilities and mobile hospitals to augment the need for quarantine facilities, including the activation of more than 1,700 beds, including the recently opened 110-bed capacity modular hospital in Quezon Institute and 300-bed capacity Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility in The Manila Times College of Subic, Inc.,” he said.

Efforts are also being made to accommodate and better serve patients with COVID-19, Roque said.

“On treatment, we have set up a One Hospital Command to better serve patients in need of hospitalization. Medical facilities have likewise given to increase its dedicated beds COVID-19 after the President directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to settle its obligation with hospitals while mainstreaming telemedicine in local government units,” he said.

“A total of 136 healthcare workers from the Visayas and Mindanao have been deployed to different facilities in Metro Manila,” he added.

Roque also pointed out that the Philippines is the third highest in vaccine rollout in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with 1.2 million doses administered.

“On vaccination, we have reached the one million mark in terms of total COVID-19 vaccines administered,” he said.

Roque reminded critics that the spike in COVID-19 cases is not only happening in the Philippines but in other countries as well.

“Critics and the detractors of the Administration have always something to say. It is worth mentioning that the increase in the number of cases is seen not only in the Philippines, but it is reflected worldwide as per World Health Organization Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe,” he said.

He, however, acknowledged that much more can be done to ramp up efforts to respond to the prevailing public health crisis.

“We call on all sectors to unite and help the government in putting an end to this dreadful pandemic,” he said.

After Duterte’s ‘hero’ remark, Duque says honor also goes to medical, economic frontliners

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday expressed appreciation for President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark calling him a “hero” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but stressed that medical and economic frontliners who brave the public health crisis are the heroes of the pandemic.

“I am touched by the President’s remarks acknowledging the efforts of the DOH. I am thankful for his continued support and confidence in my leadership,” Duque said in a statement.

“Let me reiterate what I have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic – the heroes are our medical and economic frontliners who brave the pandemic in order to show up at work and fulfill their essential duties,” he added.

During the rollout of Sputnik V vaccine in a hospital in Manila, Duque expressed hope that the country’s frontliners will remain inspired and strong, as they are the ones taking care of COVID-19 patients.

He also reminded the public to choose to be a hero rather than be a spreader of the disease by observing health protocols, such as the wearing of face mask, despite the discomfort it brings.

“While the government has put in place comprehensive mitigation and response strategies, these are but cushions to dampen the impact of disease transmission; as long as there are breaches in our minimum public health standards, there will be transmission, and heartbreakingly so, there will be deaths,” he said.

“Yes, we may be able to survive contracting the disease, but we must remember that others will not be as fortunate. But it is also the little things that can stop the spread of disease – the proper wearing of a mask and face shield may be uncomfortable at times, but enduring a little discomfort can save lives,” he added.

Emergence of community pantries exemplifies bayanihan spirit amid crisis — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The emergence of community pantries “exemplifies the Filipino bayanihan spirit” and is not a condemnation of the government during this challenging time of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Malacañang said Monday.

“It shows the best of the Filipino. It is part of our psyche to help one another. I don’t see it as a condemnation of the government,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online briefing.

“It shows the best of us during the worst of times,” he added.

Roque made the statement after some lawmakers remarked that the establishment of community pantries and other similar activities offering aid to those in need is brought about by the government’s failure to provide enough assistance to families heavily affected by the pandemic.

Roque, however, insisted that the popping up of community pantries in various areas only shows the Filipinos’ unity and initiative to help those in need.

“This shows na bayanihan ang umiiral, hindi bangayan,” he said.

In an earlier statement, Roque stressed that the government needs the support and cooperation of everyone to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

He also assured that the government is working to provide for the needs of the most affected families.

“The social amelioration programs and services of the national government serve as subsidy for the provision of basic necessities and tool for the recovery and rehabilitation of the most affected families and individuals,” he said.

“The medium and long-term solution remains safeguarding the physical safety of our people while ensuring the economic health of the nation. Ingat buhay para sa hanapbuhay,” he added.

He also reminded the public to continue observing health protocols to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Palace assures aid to families affected by ‘Bising’

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang assured that government agencies are ready for the onslaught of Typhoon Bising as it continues to move over the Philippine sea east of Catanduanes.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace is monitoring updates on the typhoon, adding that the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) has conducted pre-disaster risk assessments at the national level.

The OCD has also issued guidance and advisories for the early preparation of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (RDRRMC) and the local government units since April 14, he added.

Roque likewise assured that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has standby funds amounting to P556,438,277.65 in its central office and field offices, as well as stockpiles consisting of 370,058 Family Food Packs amounting to P188,605,445.38, as of April 17, 2021.

“The Department of Health has assured that they have dedicated teams looking into the impact of any disaster, especially in monitoring the evacuation centers in relation to COVID-19 protocol,” he said in a statement.

“They have likewise prepositioned assorted medicines/COVID supplies to regional offices,” he added.

The Palace official also said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has prepositioned all response assistance and instructed all unified commands to assist RDRRMCs in pre-emptive evacuation and other relevant operations.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), for its part, activated nine regions, reiterating the use of OPLAN LISTO and LGU assistance to response operations.

Citing a report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Roque said that pre-emptive evacuation has been carried out in Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Northern and Eastern Samar.

“Our concern is the safety of everyone. We, therefore, ask our people to remain alert and vigilant, cooperate with authorities and continue to observe minimum public health standards for protection against COVID-19,” the Palace official said.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on Sunday reported that Typhoon Bising has slightly weakened as it continues to move over the Philippine Sea.

Bising is expected to bring heavy rains over the Bicol region and Northern Samar, which may trigger flooding and landslides especially in areas identified as highly susceptible to these hazards.

PAGASA said Bising will “continue moving slowly in the next 6 to 12 hours as it begins to turn generally northward over the Philippine Sea east of Catanduanes.”

“Afterwards, the typhoon will continue moving northward while gradually accelerating until Wednesday evening before turning northeastward and east-northeastward away from the landmass of Luzon,” it added.

“The recent weakening of “BISING” after reaching its peak intensity was caused by a recently completed eyewall replacement cycle. The typhoon is forecast to maintain its current intensity in the next 24 to 48 hours before gradually weakening throughout the remainder of the forecast period,” PAGASA said.

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