MANILA – Malacañang on Sunday said President Rodrigo Duterte will be releasing an executive order to strengthen public health response after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first case of local transmission of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country.
“I will release the executive order tomorrow [on Monday] at the press briefing,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in an interview over DZIQ after Duterte approved the DOH recommendation to declare a state of public health emergency amid the surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.
He assured that government is ready to respond to any eventuality, stressing that the DOH has already called on Congress to approve the over PHP2-billion proposed supplemental budget to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
“Nire-ready na ‘yun (It is being readied),” he said.
In a separate statement, Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, assured that Congress is ready to augment funds in the government’s response to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“There are funds contained in the 2020 General Appropriations Act that can be tapped for this purpose and if these are not enough then the DOH should say so,” he said.
Panelo said the government could also tap tax collections from Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) to fund response efforts versus Covid-19.
“Lahat ‘yun puwede kasi (All of this is possible) supposed to be ang pera na nakukuha natin (the money we get), the government can use that in any undertaking,” he said.
To date, the Philippines has six confirmed cases of Covid-19.
The three new Covid-19 patients in the country include the 48-year-old man who previously visited Japan, and a couple — a 62-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman — who both had no travel history abroad.
Won’t limit engagements
Despite the Covid-19 threat, Panelo said Duterte would not limit his public engagements.
“I don’t think so dahil marami pa siyang naka-schedule (because he a lot of engagements scheduled),” he said.
He said Duterte will also observe safety precautions such frequent handwashing and avoid crowded areas to ensure his good health.
There was no need to consider a lockdown of Malacañang Complex to undergo disinfection protocols, he said.
Earlier, the Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Duterte will be visiting Boracay on March 12 to join efforts in lifting the public’s mood to travel around the Philippines.
Aside from promotions, the Chief Executive will also inspect what has been done on the island since it was rehabilitated.
Panelo said the Palace is leaving it to the discretion of private schools to suspend classes as part of efforts to contain the disease.
He said private schools have the authority to suspend classes and eventually reschedule makeup classes.
“Discretion sa kanila ‘yan (That’s their discretion). If they feel their schoolchildren are safe [that way], they can do that,” he said.
However, he said he does not see a need for the national government to call off work anytime soon.
“I don’t think we have reached that level. We should not panic,” he said.
Some cities have suspended classes this week including Navotas City (no classes on Monday); Cainta, Rizal (no classes until Tuesday); and Taytay, Rizal (no classes on Monday).
Authorities confirmed the first local case was a resident of Cainta.
Face the problem
He also assured that the country’s economic managers are ready to respond to the possible economic impact of Covid-19 to the country.
“That problem is not local, international ‘yan, global ‘yan (it’s international, global) so we have to face it,” he said.
Losses were expected but he said Duterte’s economic team is “trying to do something about it.”
“Saying we can stop the losses, I don’t think we can,” he said.
On Friday, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the Philippine economy could lose between USD669 million and USD1.94 billion and lose 87,000 to 252,000 jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
In a report titled “The Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on Developing Asia,” the ADB said that among its member-countries, expected to be “significantly affected” by the disease’s economic impact are those “with strong trade and production linkages with China.”
China was the Philippines’ top trade partner last year. (PNA)