Philippines

Palace: ‘Big brothers’ in MECQ areas meant to ensure effective response vs COVID

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Friday defended the government’s decision to designate Cabinet members to oversee COVID-19 response strategies of cities and provinces currently under lockdown, saying that the directive is meant to ensure the “operational” of the national action plan against the pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said this as certain quarters suggested to have health experts guide local government units (LGUs) in the execution of COVID-19 response efforts.

“We, however, have to stress that public health officers and health experts are one part of the whole-of-government approach,” Roque said in a statement.

“The assignment of Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) members to LGUs, we reiterate, is to ensure close coordination between the national government and LGUs and to harmonize the policies being crafted by the IATF and the operational framework that is being implemented on the ground.”

He added: “We have to ensure that the operational aspect of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19 will be properly implemented down to the barangays.”

The IATF on Emerging Infectious Diseases assigned its members to different cities in Metro Manila and provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal to “provide stronger support” in LGUs efforts against COVID-19.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, IATF co-chair, said the decision is inspired by Cebu City’s “success” in handling the health crisis after Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu was designated as its pandemic response overseer.

But Senator Franklin Drilon said the move could lead to “overstepping” of LGUs’ local autonomy.

What we want to prevent here is the overstepping of authority. There is a thin line that separates supervision and control. It is always a subject of overreach by the national government,” the veteran lawmaker said.

“We cannot take away some powers or freedom in the name of war against COVID-19. The LGUs should be allowed to perform its functions with full autonomy,” he added.

JPV

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