Pangilinan proposes quick, timely science-based, multi-sectoral interventions in COVID-19 pandemic

March 12, 2020

MANILA — As the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Thursday assured the public that the health disaster can be defeated with quick and timely multi-sectoral, science-based interventions anchored on compassion.

“We can defeat this virus. We can lessen the spread. And we can emerge triumphant and victorious but we have to help each other,” Pangilinan said.

“We are confronted by a virus that knows no boundaries. No one family, no matter how equipped with tons of food stock, disinfectants, and medicines, can stay safe for long if the rest of the community have none. Combatting the disease needs a community effort and compassion toward each other,” he added.

Pangilinan said national and local governments need to step up efforts to keep the public aware and well-informed, as he enumerated the areas where leadership is required:

·      More frequent advisories and bulletins should be issued, utilizing the help of the private sector such as telcos through timely updates.

·      Concerned national government agencies and local government units should stock up on basic relief goods.

“Work suspension will hit hard those earning on a no work, no pay basis tulad ng mga jeepney driver, construction worker, at kahit na yung mga sidewalk vendor. Sila yung pinaka vulnerable. Sila ang dapat bigyang-pansin. Their families have to eat. A lockdown will hurt daily wage earners and, if hungry, may turn to looting or theft. We need to provide relief goods and cash support. It is a messy situation and we need to act fast,” Pangilinan said.

“Now is also the best time for local government units to make their services felt in communities. Mahirap sabihin sa mga kababayan nating kumalma kung walang mahanap na face mask o alcohol. One municipality in Rizal gives free face masks and alcohol refill to its constituents. Mahirap sabihing maghugas ng kamay kung walang tubig. Siguraduhin ang supply ng tubig,” he said.

·      Government should make fund releases easy especially to government hospitals through the Departments of Health and Social Welfare and Development. Tap contingency funds and savings for COVID-19.

·      Leaders, especially in government, should strategize and draw up measures to address this pandemic.

“While we recognize the need for some government officials to go on self-quarantine, it should not mean totally disappearing totally from the public and not working,” Pangilinan said.  

·      Enforce, expand, and encourage social distancing.

“Provide additional medical leaves and other support for self-quarantine of government and private employees. No penalty for COVID-vulnerable doing self-quarantine. Consider additional leaves as donation similar to during a disaster,” Pangilinan said.

“Cancel or postpone non-essential travels, class suspensions, and mass gatherings to prevent COVID spread. Nobody can enter or exit lockdown areas, unless there are proven family or work reasons. Postpone work meetings and encourage working from home,” he added.

Pangilinan was among the first to prod government into action when news broke out on a possible pandemic on January 27, when he called on government to impose a travel ban to visitors from China.

At the February 4 Senate hearing on government response, Pangilinan was among the senators who censured Health Secretary Francisco Duque for seeming unpreparedness, unaware of basic statistics involving the spread of the disease, including the number of flights from China and other affected areas.

The former Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization recalled his experience with the cocolisap infestation in 2014 -2015 that affected over 4.5 million coconut trees nationwide.

The infestation was contained following timely and quick science-based protocols with the active participation of various sectors, in and out of government.

Kapag tayo ay kumilos nang maayos, may disiplina at organisado ang ating interventions, tatalunin natin yung peste. At sa awa ng Diyos, after our interventions, public emergency na rin yon, we were able to bring down from 59 hotspots in five provinces to one hotspot in one province because of the intervention of medicine, of science, of local government, of the national government. Sama-samang pinagtulungan,” he said.

Pangilinan reiterated that everyone must work together to combat COVID-19.

Ganun din dito sa coronavirus. Sino ba ang mas magaling? Yung virus na hindi naman nag-iisip o yung tao na kumikilos at mayroong pag-iisip? I think people will be more powerful, will be more effective in combating this virus but we need to be science-based. We need to inspire local governments as well as the private sector na magtulungan so that we can manage this pandemic,” Pangilinan said.

The senator added that if we act together, “we can reduce the spread by as much as eight to ten times because of social distancing, because of massive testing, because of self-quarantine, because of interventions both of the individual and not only the private sector [but also the] government.”