MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson called out the executive department for its supposed lack of action plan to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak a week after Congress granted additional powers to the President to address the same.
“While the President’s initial report lists three priority programs: (1) providing emergency assistance to affected sectors; (2) securing facilities and resources for the health sector; and (3) performing fiscal and monetary actions for the economy – there does not appear to be an action plan for each of them,” Lacson said in a message to reporters on Wednesday.
“This must be spelled out in the next report to Congress,” he added.
Lacson is a member of the joint congressional oversight committee tasked to review President Rodrigo Duterte’s report on the implementation of Republic Act 11469, known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which was enacted last week.
Under the law, the President is granted “necessary and proper” powers to adopt several “temporary emergency measures” to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which has so far infected over 1,500 in the Philippines.
But it also requires the President to submit a report every Monday of each week to make sure the extra powers granted to him are being appropriately used and not abused.
In reviewing the President’s pilot report to Congress, Lacson said it was not able to lay out concrete action plans to respond to the outbreak.
“Lack of planning and coordinating threatens to defeat the purpose of the urgency of RA 11469 – that is to resolve and fight the virus by way of smooth and expeditious implementation,” he said.
“The lack of foresight in this regard is obviously causing the delays as we see it actually happening now. They knew beforehand what they wanted to ask from Congress. When we gave it to them in a record time of 18 hours, apparently they were not prepared to execute,” he added.
The Senate passed the now enacted law during an 18-hour-long special session.
Lacson recommended that the executive department should have an “overall plan” that would “mitigate the risks and minimizing or stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
This, he said, should include a “detailed presentation of how funds will be disbursed and used by the implementing agencies.”
“The same must be made public for transparency,” he added.
The senator said the executive department should also present to Congress a “clearer picture of the COVID-19 situation” in its next report.
“How many have been tested, number of displaced families and workers per region, and its impact on the country’s economy, including the steps undertaken to adapt to the developing situation,” he said.
Frontliners’ risk allowance
In the President’s report, the executive issuance that would grant a special risk allowance for public health workers is still being drafted.
Lacson said the immediate implementation of the law’s provision on the special risk allowance granted to public health workers, which would be given on top of their regular hazard pay, “must be prioritized.”
Other benefits for both public and private health workers provided under the said law, especially to benefit those already infected or have died in the line of duty must also be on top of the executive department’s list, he added.
The lawmaker also said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should come up “clear guidelines” on the use of the rapid test kits it recently approved.
This is in order to maximize “a supervised mass testing by the LGUs followed by an immediate distribution to local government units, depending on demand and urgency.”