Gov’t cites accomplishments in fight vs. Covid-19

The Duterte administration has detailed its accomplishments in addressing the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in the country.

The signing of the Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act helps the government bolster its ongoing efforts to fight Covid-19 as the new law allows President Rodrigo Duterte to wield special powers to contain the spread of the virus.

In the accomplishment and transparency tracker uploaded on website covid19.gov.ph, the government cites the accomplishments of various state departments since RA 11469 was inked by Duterte on March 24.

To stop the further transmission of Covid-19, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has prioritized the production of 26,000 test kits for field implementation and distribution to five hospitals that can do the testing starting April 4 to 25.

The DOST has also produced 500,000 “reusable, washable and re-wearable” face masks.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), on the other hand, has helped the Department of Health (DOH) streamline the logistical operations of ambulances to Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patient referrals to public hospitals within Metro Manila.

The DICT has also provided technical assistance for DOH, drafted protocols for digital solutions to track Covid-19 patients, and augment the Epidemiology Bureau’s data gathering and disease surveillance and response functions compliant with cybersecurity and privacy laws, rules and regulation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has also processed the facilitation of in-kind donations from four foreign governments, 12 private companies, individuals and civil society organizations.

To ensure the unhampered distribution of medical supplies, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has expedited the release of six ventilators and 40,000 test kits from the Temasek Foundation, 48 cartons of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets from the Xiamen Boson Biotech, and 57,600 test kits from the Alibaba Foundation.

The DOST has also facilitated the requests for transportation and provision of testing kits, PPE sets, and other medical supplies to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) likewise has an ongoing study on the deployment of “floating” quarantine facilities that will be used to house persons suspected of having Covid-19, while the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has formed a task force that will facilitate the conversion of public buildings into health facilities or food hubs.

The National Transmission Corporation, meantime, has forged an agreement with the Lung Center of the Philippines that allows its health workers to be temporarily lodged at Transco dormitory facilities.

The Department of Budget and Management has also starteD drafting an executive issuance that will cover public health workers’ Covid-19 special risk allowance, which is in addition to the hazard pay granted to them under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.

Budget allocation

Under RA 11469, Duterte is also allowed to augment funds for Covid-19 response.

As of March 27, funds are yet to be reprogrammed, reallocated or realigned pending the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) submission of its final budgetary requirements.

However, the DBM on March 27 already transmitted to the Department of Finance (DOF) a draft joint circular that will cover the utilization of PHP100-billion funds from national government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations.

The DBM has also begun preparing an initial master list of all unreleased appropriations under the Special Purpose Funds estimated at PHP372.719 billion.

Social welfare

In an effort to help displaced families due to Covid-19 outbreak, an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program has been implemented for two months.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has so far distributed food and non-food items to around 4,753 beneficiaries from March 13 to 29.

The DSWD has also procured 69,200 family food packs for 69,200 families; 15 family tents; 577,830 face masks; and 10,000 sando bags for rice repacking.

It has also granted PHP3,000 cash assistance to at least 54 stranded passengers at Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The DSWD has likewise attended to the requests of 556 individuals who sought medical, educational and burial assistance from March 16 to 27.

Businesses

The government has also adopted several measures to minimize the disruption to the supply chain.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has issued several advisories on the unrestricted movement of food supply, as well as the cargo and business personnel.

The Department of Agriculture has likewise formulated the Food Resiliency Action Plan, which includes quick response measures on the movement, trucking, and marketing of food supplies from the provinces to the metro areas.

The BOC has also issued orders providing for online filing of goods declaration, clearance of relief consignment entered during a state of calamity, and suspension of the seven-day period to lodge goods declarations.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has also begun its preparations for the implementation of the PHP1-billion Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing, which includes restart or restock of businesses to avoid foreclosure of their business assets, once quarantine restrictions are lifted.

To allow enterprises engaged in the manufacture of much needed medical supplies to operate and sell domestically, the IATF-EID has recommended the suspension of export percentage requirements for export enterprises.

The DTI has also liberalized the grant of incentives for the manufacture or importation of critical or needed equipment or supplies, including healthcare equipment.

Helping Filipino workers

The national government has also implemented measures aimed at easing the plight of the workers affected by the month-long implementation of enhanced community quarantine.

Around noted 3,082 establishments with 137,496 affected workers have likewise implemented flexible work arrangements, while some 6,060 firms with 190,932 affected workers have opted for temporary closure.

From March 25 to 26, some 8,641 beneficiaries already received PHP5,000.00 financial assistance under the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program.

The DOLE has also provided a 10-day disinfection job to 51,293 Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program beneficiaries who are expected to receive payment in three tranches (March 30, and April 6 and 7).

The DBM has also signed a budget circular that grants hazard pay to government workers who physically report for work during the imposition of enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

For overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the DFA has maintained close links with the World Health Organization and foreign governments to ensure timely exchange of critical information on the status of their status, provision of the necessary assistance, and facilitation of their safe repatriation.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has also provided transport, food, and accommodation assistance to returning and departing OFWs.

People’s safety

To protect people against Covid-19, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has assisted in providing disinfection and sanitation services for vehicles and public spaces by installing 336 sanitation tents and 76 gantry facilities.

The DPWH has also decontaminated 415 convergence areas like checkpoints, government facilities, schools, hospitals, and markets.

The Environment Management Bureau, meantime, has issued 90 special permits to transport pathological and infectious waste to augment the capacity of treatment, storage and disposal facilities.

To promote public awareness of Covid-19 outbreak, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) has employed communication strategies such as virtual pressers, television and radio specials, social media cards and infographics, short video and audio materials, public service announcements, outdoor advertising, and news and feature articles.

The PCOO, in partnership with DICT, has likewise launched the Laging Handa website as an aggregator of all information related to the COVID-19 situation and government response.

To stop further transmission of Covid-19, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has imposed a total lockdown on all jail facilities, disinfected jail cells, implemented “no mask no entry” policy, and adopted alternatives to physical visitation like regulated phone calls and video conferencing.

The DOTr Emergency Operations Center has also been established to respond to transportation-related queries from the public after the government limited the land, sea, and air travels.

The Bureau of Immigration has likewise issued several memoranda on travel restrictions pursuant to the directives of IATF-EID and implemented immigration formalities for passengers arriving from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea, Iran, and Italy.

Local governance

Duterte earlier directed all local government units (LGUs) to make sure that their constituents are receiving necessary assistance amid the health crisis.

As the government seeks effective monitoring of local governments’ compliance to Duterte’s directives relative to Covid-19 response, the DILG has activated the National and Regional Emergency Operations Centers to facilitate the coordination of operating units and partner agencies, as well as monitor LGUs.

The National Bureau of Investigation has also started investigating and filing charges against local government officials who willfully disregard, contravene, or violate national guidelines on community quarantine set by the IATF-EID.

Law and order

Amid the implementation of Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, Duterte ordered the military and police to maintain peace and order in the country.

To fulfill Duterte’s order, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Fire Protection has created a National Joint Task Force Coronavirus Shield which establishes a collaborative effort in addressing the effects of Covid-19.

The National Prosecution Service, meantime, has introduced electronic online inquest (E-inquest) in Metro Manila on March 27.

All other prosecution offices located within provinces or cities under the enhanced community quarantine have been given the option to adopt the E-inquest guidelines.

Tax, utilities

The government has also moved the statutory deadlines and timelines for the filing and submission of any document, payment of taxes, fees, and other charges.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue has promulgated issuances extending the deadlines for the filing of the 2019 income tax returns from April 15 to May 15; the filing of Certificate of Residence for Tax Treaty Relief Forms until April 30; and availing of Tax Amnesty on Delinquencies from 23 April 2020 to 23 May 2020.

The Manila International Airport Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines have also extended airport concessionaires’ “rental holiday” for one month.

The National Water Resources Board, meantime, has ordered all water utilities and water service providers to refrain from disconnecting water supply to individual households for the entire duration of the nationwide public health emergency.

The Environment Management Bureau has also ordered the automatic 60-day extension of all existing treatment, storage, and disposal registration certificates nationwide which may expire during the enhanced community quarantine period.

Duterte is expected to submit his weekly report on the national government’s Covid-19 response to Congress on April 6. (Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, PNA)