PRRD’s COVID-19 Response: Doing the Best that One Can

Numerous limitations have been making it difficult for the Philippines since no country was too prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. Malacañang assured, however, that “the President is utilizing all the resources of the government to secure the safety of all Filipinos”.

The Beginning of COVID-19

Starting as an “unexplained pneumonia” in Wuhan, China, the World Health Organization (WHO), on January 9, confirmed a new disease caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Almost three weeks after this confirmation, January 30, WHO declared the novel coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On February 11, it was named COVID-19.

 

PRRD’s Immediate Response

Already calling for stronger surveillance for incoming travelers from China, early January, PRRD’s initial formal response was through IATF Resolution No. 1 which suspended visa issuance for travelers from Hubei. This was enacted on January 28, two days before WHO declared the COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. 

Not shortly after, PRRD imposed a ban on travelers from Wuhan City and Hubei Province of China. The ban was then expanded to travelers with travel history in China, Hong Kong, and Macau within the last two weeks.

On February 3, the government was early to procure face masks, amidst the foreseen shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for stockpile. 

On February 9, the travel ban on China, Macau, and Hongkong was extended to Taiwan. This was reversed a week after with PRRD heeding to the call of OFWs coming from Taiwan.

 

Public Health Emergency

Code Red Sub-Level 1 was raised by the DOH when the first localized transmission was confirmed on March 7. Following this, PRRD immediately issued a declaration of public health emergency through Proclamation No. 922 on March 9 – authorizing local government units to employ their local disaster risk reduction management funds. 

Three days after Proclamation No. 22, IATF Resolution 11 was enacted which placed the country’s Code Alert System under Code Red Sublevel Two. It tasked LGUs to impose localized community quarantine based on guidelines set by the Department of Health’s Technical Advisory Group.

 

Enhanced Community Quarantine

PRRD announced on March 12 a Community Quarantine of Metro Manila which would begin on March 15. On March 16, the entirety of Luzon was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine. It must be noted that the Philippines, along with China, Vietnam, and Mongolia, were the first Asian countries to impose community quarantine. 

A day after the Luzon ECQ, Proclamation No. 929 was issued – declaring a state of calamity throughout the country for six months, until September.

Also, through Proclamation 929, the government rolled out P27.1 billion relief package to counter the impact of COVID-19. This was aimed to support initiatives to better equip health workers and provide relief and recovery measures to individuals and sectors reeling from the adverse impact of the pandemic.

Through a joint resolution initiated by the IATF, (Res. Nos. 11 and 12, 2020) and under the execution of the ECQ through general community quarantine guidelines set, mass public transportation was suspended; land, air, and sea travel were restricted; strict home quarantine was imposed; and, closure of non-essential establishments was placed, among others. 

On March 18, through IATF Res. No. 13, the unhampered movement of cargo and movement of people of business establishments exempted from the home quarantine requirement was ensured.

 

PRRD Granted Emergency Powers

Authorized to “exercise powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to meet the current national emergency related to COVID-19 only for three months unless extended by Congress”, PRRD was quick to implement various provision from the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which includes the provision for a COVID-19 special risk allowance and hazard pay, assistance to repatriates, monitoring of LGUs, support fund for DOST, implementation of the Emergency Subsidy program, movement of statutory deadlines and timelines, and the implementation of relief operations providing Food and Non-Food Items through the DSWD, among others.

Only on its first report, as required by the Section by of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Malacañang was able to grant and delegate all power needed, – except two – to fulfill the responsibility provided for by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. The two powers still undelegated were the power to direct the operation of private establishment for operations necessary, and the power to require businesses to prioritize contracts for materials and services necessary for the crisis. These two powers as seen as only exercised when absolutely necessary. 

On April 6, through Circular No. 01-2020, the procurement of highly needed supplies, materials, equipment, utilities, telecommunications, and other critical services authorized under RA No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was expedited.

On its latest report, dated April 20, among its already exercised power and ability for repurposing and reprioritization, the Malacañang has created newly-initiated measures under four objectives: (1) Provide Emergency Assistance to all Affected Sectors; (2) Secure Facilities and Resources for the Health Sector and Other Frontliners; (3) Establish Sound Fiscal and Monetary Actions that are Responsive to all Stakeholders; and, (4) Formulate a Responsive and Sustainable Recovery Plan.

 

Succeedings Enactments

On March 31, Administrative Order No. 27 was issued to establish a network for the acceptance, management, distribution, and delivery of all donated health products – consolidating all the donations in the Office of Civil Defense.

On April 6, Administrative Order No. 28 was issued which grants a one-time risk allowance for frontline government health workers. 

On April 7, through IATF Res. No. 20, Cabinet Secretary Nograles clarified that through the recommendation that bears from Res. No. 20, the President was clear of its approval that the ECQ is extended until April 30, 11:59 PM.

Concerning the recommendations posted by various agencies, IATF Res. No. 21 was issued for the various programs and initiatives posted by DOLE with their 5-B request budget to defray to cost of various social amelioration programs; DOH with their request for increase testing capacity – targeted testing; DA with their request to ensure food availability – considering the agriculture and food processing sector as front liners, a 31-B budget for ALPAS COVID-19 program, and mobilization of a price coordinating council with the help of DILG to monitor prices of goods; ARTA with their recommendation of a “Bayanihan One-Stop-Shop” for agencies included in the accreditation and logistics; DTI with other agencies for their recommendation of repurposing manufacturing capacity to produce critical medical products and devices; and, DOTr with their request of resumption of utility and relocation work, and specified limited works across 13 railway projects.

On April 8, under IATF Res. No. 22, the Philippine government will now disclose to the public the personal information of patients who tested positive for COVID-19.

 

On the Latest

On April 13, through an announcement by Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua, the government will provide middle-class workers severely affected by the lockdown with wage subsidies totaling P51 billion. An emergency subsidy program for families not included on the DSWD emergency subsidy list was also promised to be taken care of by PRRD.

On April 13, PRRD, through his weekly Monday address, made a statement that all hospitals must take in all those who get sick and need immediate medical attention.

On April 14, during the ASEAN’s first videoconference summit, PRRD calls for closer collaboration in strengthening health systems and ensuring food security during the COVID-19 crisis.

The government gears up for targeted testing and ordered LGUs to assign contract tracers. Targeted testing of Suspect and Probable COVID-19 cases began on April 14. As assured by the government, when resources permit, mass testing will be implemented as soon possible. 

 

Like most policies and pronouncement from PRRD, the government acted fast when situation calls for it. Numerous limitations have been making it difficult for the Philippines since no country was too prepared for the pandemic. Malacañang, however, assured that “the President is utilizing all the resources of the government to secure the safety of all Filipinos”.

 

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