Pangilinan: Palace lacks solid COVID game plan

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    Opposition Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan yesterday pressed for immediate improvements in Malacañang’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he reiterated has been ineffective and has failed to stem the still rising number of infections all over the country.

    Ten months since the President declared a national health emergency because of the pandemic, Pangilinan noted that government still has no clear game plan in its fight against COVID-19.

    “Community quarantines have been in place for almost a year now and yet, the government still has no solid game plan… Millions of Filipinos have lost their jobs, while others have seen deep cuts in their incomes. Millions are hungry,” Pangilinan said.

    “It has been a year since we had the first confirmed COVID case. We (have) dropped the ball several times already. A year ago, our contact-tracing efforts were abysmal. Our testing took a while to really take off. Even the negotiation for supply of vaccines took several months to start,” he also said.

    He added: “As they say, incompetence is costly. And this time we’re paying the price figuratively and literally. We have incurred billion in loans… If we had responded properly to the health crisis, then we would not be so left behind now. How can we expect our economy to recover if the government’s response is so slow?”

    The senator stressed the government needs to step up, clear its deliverables, and perform better, saying: “Competent leadership is key. The Senate has been saying that since from the start.”

    Pangilinan said the COVID vaccination plan would play a key role in the success of the government’s pandemic response.

    “Now, we have to swiftly and effectively implement the COVID vaccination plan – fully transparent and without graft. Only then will we be able to begin our recovery,” Pangilinan said.

    Sen. Joel Villanueva agreed that the government’s immediate vaccine rollout is the key to economic recovery.

    “That’s why the immediate vaccination rollout is very important for our economy to bounce back not only to boost investor confidence but the confidence of the people, as well. We need vaccines that are effective, affordable that will reach the priority individuals,” Villanueva said.

    President Duterte has said that the country’s economy is “sinking deeper and deeper” due to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

    In reaction, Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured the President that the Senate will craft measures that would ensure economic recovery.

    But Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said economic managers should start laying down comprehensive and realistic plans to address the ailing economy, warning that failure to do so will lead to more serious problems like increase in crimes, extreme poverty, hunger, and joblessness.

    Sen. Christopher Go said he would rate as “very good” the government’s pandemic response, but reminded the public not to be complacent and to still observe health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

    “We all know that President Duterte, the Executive Department, health officials, the PNP, and AFP are doing everything to fight the pandemic. I am one with the World Health Organization which said that we have a very good pandemic response,” Go said.

    As chair of the Senate committee on health, Go said he will support the provision of additional budget for the Department of Health’s genome sequencing to detect new COVID-19 variants.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire has said that the proposed additional P362-million budget for genome sequencing can be consolidated from the budgets of the University of the Philippines, National Institutes of Health, Philippine Genome Center, and also the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

    Go said that the budget may be sourced from contingency funds.