TESTING is good, but where's the plan?
This was one of the main issues raised by House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido "Benny" Abante Jr., who, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA), urged the government to come up with "comprehensive, coherent strategy to beat COVID-19."
In his Tuesday’s Contra-SONA, Abante said out that while the President mentioned the dreaded virus "at least ten times" no mention was made of a comprehensive plan to beat COVID-19.
Pointing out that a recent survey showed that 85% of Filipinos were worried they would contract the COVID-19 virus and that experts from the University of the Philippines had warned that the country would have as many as 140,000 cases by the end of August, Abante explained that "sa puntong ito, ang mga kababayan natin, may kakilala, kaibigan, o kamag-anak na nagkaroon na ng Covid-19. Some of them have felt the crushing pain of losing someone to this disease."
"Lahat po sila natatakot; lahat po sila nangangamba; lahat po sila nag-aabang––all of them are asking: what will the government do to protect us from this invisible enemy? What is the country’s comprehensive plan to beat COVID-19," asked the legislator.
"We appreciate the fact that there is good news; for example, our testing capabilities have increased to the point that on July 25, we recorded the single-most number of tests conducted in a single day: 32,370; this is double the number of tests conducted on June 25; it is five times greater than the number of tests conducted on May 25, and it is seven times higher than the number of tests conducted on April 25," said Abante.
"However, after the tests, Mr. Speaker, what comes next? What does the government plan to do as it identifies more and more Filipinos with the virus? What are the steps it will take to systematically reduce the number of people who contract this disease?" Abante asked.
Abante inquired as to steps the government would take "to capacitate our hospitals and prepare our frontliners for the surge of new cases?"
"I am sure at this point––after all the sacrifices our medical personnel have made––that everyone can agree that our doctors, nurses, and heroes in white deserve our gratitude. However, they need more than that, Mr. Speaker. Ano po ang plano para tulungan sila? Ano po ang plano para makaiwas sila sa COVID-19? What can we do to address their need for hazard pay, mandatory testing, and protective equipment?"
According the Abante, the absence of a clear strategy to reduce the number of the country's COVID-19 cases would lead to situations such as the thousands of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) crammed in Rizal Memorial Coliseum waiting to be sent home to their provinces.
"May mga report na may iilan sa kanila ay positive para sa COVID-19. Supposedly, the purpose of the program is to help our poor countrymen who have no way of going home to their respective provinces; now, instead of helping them, these LSIs may have been needlessly exposed to the virus. Ito po ang sinasabi namin; maganda man ang hangarin, kung hindi po maayos ang ating plano, hindi po tayo makakatulong––baka makakasama pa tayo," lamented Abante.
"Simply put: if we fail to plan properly, our plan will undoubtedly fail. We need a comprehensive, coherent strategy to beat COVID-19––one that is not dependent on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the mass production of which may be months away," Abante said.