Duterte still trusts Duque despite criticisms over DOH’s nCoV response — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   February 5, 2020   •   468

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte reads a report on the 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) during a briefing at the Malacañan Palace on February 3, 2020. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts Health Secretary Francisco Duque III despite criticisms from several lawmakers over his department’s handling of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases in the country, a Malacañang official said Wednesday, February 5.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made the statement after opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan criticized Duque for not knowing details involving the spread of the disease in the country, and for failing to complete the contact tracing of plane passengers who traveled with two Chinese tourists who tested positive for 2019-nCoV.

Nograles called Pangilinan and the other senators’ accusations of failure of leadership against Duque “very unfair,” saying a lapse that could easily be rectified did not mean that the DOH’s efforts to contain the spread of the disease were a total failure.

“He’s hands-on with everything. He’s done his job so far. The President still has his trust and confidence kay Secretary Duque,” he told reporters in an interview in the Palace.

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, senators grilled Duque for failing to complete the contact tracing following confirmation of positive nCoV cases in the Philippines.

The Health chief reasoned that airlines refused to share passengers’ contact information to protect their privacy, which was denied by local carriers Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines.

Duque, however, promised to complete the contact tracing process within two days.

Nograles said Duterte has not expressed disappointment over Duque during their Cabinet meeting on Tuesday night after the latter was chided by lawmakers earlier in the day.

He added that focusing on the “weakness” in contact tracing is not the correct way of managing an ongoing health crisis, adding that the public should look at the bigger picture by recognizing the government’s efforts to ensure the safety of Filipinos against the virus.

“You should look at the different aspects in terms of the management of the situation. There are several other aspects, the quarantine, health care, the testing, the protocols, coordination of different agencies, coordination with WHO (World Health Organization),” he said.

He also said that calling for Duque’s resignation is not the “proper thing to do” at a time when the government is working to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus in the country.

“Let’s move forward from there. I think that’s the best we can do at this time. Let’s just help one another,” he said. “Let’s not take away all the other efforts that the DOH family is doing… Mahirap ang trabaho na ginagawa ng mga health workers natin.”

“There was a lapse, it was admitted, and it will be rectified and we hope the public will continue to support and not constantly look at just one lapse and say failure na lahat. I think given the circumstances, our health workers have done a pretty good job,” he added. — RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte on reopening the economy: ‘We cannot afford to gamble’

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The country is not yet ready to fully reopen its economy, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Chief Executive said the government is doing the process gradually, otherwise the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections would spike that could lead to a bigger problem.

He said he cannot follow the example of other countries because the Philippines does not have as much resources if the situation gets worse.

“Tayong pobre we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. Mahirap tayo. Hindi tayo puwedeng sumugal (As a poor country, we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. We are poor. We cannot afford to gamble),” the President said during his public address on Tuesday evening (July 7).

President Duterte cited situations in the United States and Brazil where despite being powerful and wealthy, are not spared from the impact of the pandemic.

“Although they opened their economy for money to come into the government coffers, there was a spike. They were having a problem of almost a relapse — in the totality of the number,” he added.

Meanwhile, the President expressed doubts that the country has entered the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak.

“Now we do not even know if the number of 34, 178 of active cases is still a part of the first wave or have we arrived at the second wave. I don’t think so. We are still grappling with the first wave,” he argued.

He urged Filipinos to obey strict health protocols and have more patience as the government works to combat the pandemic.

Mga kababayan ko, ako mismo gusto ko nang lumabas. Ayoko nang magpapigil. Kung gusto ko nga makipag-away na ako. Ang problema iyon ang gusto ko, pero ang gusto ko ay hindi makakabuti sa ating lahat,” he said.

(My fellow countrymen, I personally I want to go out. I don’t want to be barred from doing so. I am even ready to fight over this. The problem is, what I want is not good for everyone.)

“We have to be very circumspect in reopening the economy. Dahan-dahan lang (Let’s do it gradually), because if you open the entire Philippines and thousands upon thousands of new cases would happen, then we are in deep s***. Talagang mahirapan tayo (We will seriously struggle),” he said. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

Brazil’s Bolsonaro tested again for novel coronavirus

UNTV News   •   July 7, 2020

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday (July 6) he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus, after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease, including a fever.

Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested for the virus, adding that an exam had shown his lungs “clean.”

CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday.

The right-wing populist has often defied local guidelines to wear a mask in public, even after a judge ordered him to do so in late June.

Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended multiple events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolsonaro previously tested negative for the coronavirus after several aides were diagnosed following a visit to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, estate in March. (Reuters)

(Production: Leonardo Benassatto, Paul Vieira)

Economic, infra clusters to hold pre-2020 SONA forum this week

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte government’s economic development and infrastructure Cabinet clusters are set to present the administration’s plans for recovery and resilience in the face of the coronavirus-induced headwinds this year at the first pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum to be held this week.

The Department of Finance (DOF) said that the forum titled, “Regaining Momentum, Accelerating Recovery in a Post COVID-19 World,” will be held virtually on July 8.

Hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the forum will be streamed live on the Facebook pages of the Radio Television Malacañang, and other government agencies.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II said this year’s pre-SONA forum will be different as the audience will be “purely virtual,” due to limitations on mass gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do hope that our citizens will be able to tune in as the country’s top decision makers discuss our path to a quick and strong recovery from this crisis,” he said.

In the forum, the DOF said that top economic and infrastructure officials are also expected to report on the state of the Philippine economy, as well as the government’s ongoing efforts to leverage on its strong fundamentals in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar will present performance updates and priority plans, respectively, on the economic and infrastructure fronts.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua will speak on the Philippine Economic Recovery Program.

“The audience can expect Secretary Dominguez to delve deeper into the challenges we’re facing right now, the accomplishments in the previous year that we can build on, and the legislative proposals that the economic team submitted for Congress to consider,” Lambino said.

Meanwhile, updates on the monetary, external, and financial sectors will be discussed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno.

Pre-SONA forums are held annually to discuss in greater detail the achievements of the government in the previous year and the priorities of the Cabinet cluster heads in the run-up to the President’s SONA on July 27.

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