Senate seeks probe on alleged DOH mismanagement of P67-B COVID-19 fund

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 12, 2021   •   363

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate wants to look into the alleged mismanagement of funds of the Department of Health (DOH) allotted for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response.

After the recent assessment of the Commission on Audit (COA), senators are seeking to investigate the deficiencies on the DOH’s P67.32 billion COVID-19 budget.

COA attributed the said deficiencies to the health department’s non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations, including the use of funds not for the intended purpose.

Senator Grace Poe said this proves to be counter-beneficial to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease at a crucial time.

“These funds were provided to strengthen the agency’s health resources in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the implementation deficiencies denied our countrymen their right to health at a time when it is most needed,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate should “particularly look into the P3.97 billion worth of contracts and projects with procedural deficiencies in the procurement process and lacking documentation.”

“It is imperative that we examine closely the DOH’s use of billions of pesos in COVID-19 response funds given the findings of the COA and the corruption allegations that hounded the agency’s procurement of various COVID-19 equipment and supplies,” Drilon said.

Drilon said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III’s ineptitude is sabotaging the government’s response to the pandemic.

“While we see a shortage of beds, PPEs, ventilators, oxygen tanks, the DOH incurred P24.64 billion in unobligated funds that could have augmented our medical resources and paid on time the risk allowance of our medical frontliners,” Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the country needs commitment and competence from the DOH leadership to ensure every peso budgeted and allocated would save lives.

“Given the COA findings, the DOH seems to be depriving thousands of Filipinos of healthcare services in the face of national emergency and it is nothing short of criminal,” she said. AAC

PH administers over 5 million jabs in first 2 days of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – More than 5 million individuals have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first two days of the government’s three-day vaccination campaign, an official from the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

“Ang running total natin ay 5,000,353,” DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said when asked for an update on the output of the nationwide vaccination drive, dubbed as “Bayanihan, Bakunahan” program.

The campaign, which started on Monday, aims to inoculate at least nine million Filipinos until Wednesday.

“We are still hopeful na ma-meet natin iyong 9 million target. But just in case we will be unable to reach it, this record is already high,” Cabotaje said.

On the first day of the campaign, authorities were able to administer a total of 2,708,018 vaccine doses while 2,292,335 jabs were given on the second day as of 6 a.m.

Cabotaje said this number is expected to increase as more data come in.

“May nagsasabi na nakatulong ang holiday (Nov. 30) kasi they were able to go to the vaccination sites. Pero may mga feedback din na they worked because it was double-pay,” she said when asked about output on Tuesday, which was a regular holiday for Bonifacio Day.

“And there were some problems because they were not accommodated during the vaccination time. May mga bakuna centers na nagsara nang mas maaga,” she added.

The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 earlier said the vaccination drive from November 29 to December 1 will only be the first leg of the program, which is focused on scaling up the inoculation rate of local government units for the first vaccine dose by covering up to 70% of their target populations.

Another round of nationwide vaccinations will be held from December 15 to 17, which will focus on ramping up the number of fully vaccinated individuals to achieve the government’s target of fully vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by year-end.

The Philippines rolled out its vaccination drive against COVID-19 last March for priority sectors.

Mandatory use of face shields only when alert level goes up — DILG

Maris Federez   •   December 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The use of face shields will only become mandatory when cases of the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) Omicron variant is already recorded in the country and the alert level system goes up from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3, said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during the weekly Talk to the Nation aired Tuesday night, Año clarified that the government does not totally disregard the use of face shield which was, in fact, integrated into the country’s alert level system in COVID-19 response.

He said while face shield use is voluntary in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3, it has remained under the discretion of the local government units under Alert Level 4, and mandatory in areas under Alert Level 5, as stated in the current Alert Level system.

“Hindi naman po natin talaga totally na-discard ‘yung face shield. In-integrate lang po natin doon sa Alert Level System na sa Alert Level 1, 2, 3 ay voluntary po; Alert Level 4, may discretion ang LGU to impose; Alert Level 5, talagang mandatory,” Año said.

The DILG chief further clarified the use of face shields in layman’s terms and likened it to an umbrella.

“Para pong ano siya eh, sa layman’s term, ‘yung face shield po parang payong. ‘Pag malakas ang ulan nagpapayong po tayo; pero ‘pag wala nang ulan, pwedeng itabi lang muna ‘yung payong. Pero ‘pag uulan o kaya nakita natin na maulap, magdadala po ng paying,” he said.

Año stressed that the use of face shields is still well within the government’s policy.

“But, of course, sir, it will change kung may makapasok na Omicron,” he said.

The DILG chief underscored the government’s readiness once the Omicron variant enters the country.

“Now, we have instituted border controls. But our border in the southeast porous, iyon ang dapat bantayan po. Kasi kung mayroong mga pumasok na mga Filipino Muslims from Sabah, from Malaysia or Indonesia at hindi po dumaan sa port or seaport, airport, eh ‘yun po ‘yung talagang kailangang mabantayan,” Año warned.

As the department’s course of action, Año said he has coordinated with the military and has given directives to the police and the coast guard to implement strict and close monitoring in the country’s borders.

“Through the PNP (Philippine National Police), Armed Forces [of the Philippines], [and the Philippine] Coast Guard, maglalabas po kami nang mas mahigpit na mga direktiba para siguradong mabantayan ‘yung mga porous borders natin,” he said. —/mbmf

Mandatory face shield use vs Omicron variant, hindi pa kailangan sa ngayon – WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Naniniwala ang World Health Organization (WHO) na hindi pa kailangan sa ngayon ang muling pagpapatupad ng mandatory face shield use sa harap ng banta ng bagong COVID-19 variant na Omicron.

Ayon kay WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, mas mahalaga sa ngayon ang pagsunod sa health protocols gaya ng tamang pagsusuot ng face mask, physical distancing, at ang pagpapanatili ng kalinisan upang makaiwas sa COVID-19.

“WHO has right along said that this is a virus that is not airborne. It is closed contact transmission and that is why we emphasized that what is important is the physical distancing and face masking and hygiene,” ani Abeyasinghe.

“If we can ensure those minimum requirements, those minimum public health measure are complied with, if we can ensure that people don’t congregate in close settings, the requirement of face shield probably at this point of time is not mandatory,” dagdag pa niya.

Una nang inatasan ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang mga eksperto at ang Inter-Agency Task Force na magsumite ng rekomendasyon hinggil sa posibleng pagbabalik ng mandatory face shield use dahil sa banta ng bagong variant.

Ang Omicron variant ay unang natuklasan sa South Africa noon lamang nakaraang linggo at ngayo’y napaulat na rin sa iba’t ibang bansa.

Sa ulat ng ilang eksperto, pinangangambahang mas agresibo at mas nakakahawa ang variant na ito dahil sa nakita ritong mutations na mas marami pa kumpara sa Delta variant.

Ngunit giit ng WHO, sa ngayon ay wala pang malinaw na detalye para sabihing mas mabagsik nga ang Omicron variant at may epekto ito sa transmission, mga gamot na ginagamit sa severe infection at sa bakuna laban sa COVID-19.

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