Palace bucks call to abolish IATF amid virus surge

MALACANANG on Tuesday rejected calls to abolish the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) amid the surge in coronavirus  disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the country.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the mutation of the virus should be blamed for the recent spike and not the perceived incompetence of the task force.

Tanggapin natin o hindi, nag-mutate po ang mga virus at hindi naman po siguro kasalanan ng IATF na nag-mutate itong mga ito sa pamamaraan na mas nakakahawa sila (Whether we accept the mutation or not, it is not the fault of the IATF that the virus mutated in a way that makes them more transmissible),” Roque said during a virtual press briefing.

Roque, who is also the IATF spokesman, insisted that all of the IATF’s decisions, including the additional restrictions it imposed starting Monday over Metro Manila and four nearby provinces, were based on scientific data.

The effects of such measures, he said, would be felt after two weeks.

Mararamdaman po natin ang epekto hindi po ngayon, hindi bukas, kundi matapos po ng incubation period ng virus sa dalawang linggo (We will see the effects not today, not tomorrow, but after the incubation period of the virus in two weeks),” he said.

Roque said that among the measures implemented by the task force were additional testing capacities from 3,000 daily in April 2020 to 50,294 tests daily today, as well as the establishment of quarantine facilities and temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.

Quarantine facilities in Metro Manila have a capacity of accommodating 6,595 patients while there are 83 temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.

Hindi po yan incompetence (That is not incompetence),” Roque said. “Ito po ang patunay na nagagawa ng IATF ang kanyang misyon gamit ang ating mga sandata (This is proof that the IATF is doing its mission using our weapons).”

IATF protocols of “wearing a face mask, hand washing, isolation, treatment, slowly reopening the economy, financial assistance, effective fiscal management, and coordination among local government units” are the reasons why the Philippines has a recovery rate of 86 percent, he added.

The Palace official also reported that the Philippines ranked 135th in cases per one million population and 70th in the case fatality rate.

He said that countries like Brazil, Russia, and France have a higher number of deaths due to Covid-19.

Tingnan po natin ang ranking ng Pilipinas bago at pagkatapos ng spike (Let us look at the Philippines’ ranking before and after the spike),” Roque said.

Patunay po ito na (This is proof that) we are doing the right thing,” the Palace official added.

Sen. Maria Imelda Josefa “Imee” Marcos had called for the abolition of IATF and the appointment of public health experts to lead the country’s fight against Covid-19 through a “true science-based” approach.

Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd “concurred” with Marcos’ proposal, citing what he said was the “gross incompetence” of the Department of Health (DoH) in handling the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel called for an overhaul of the members of IATF, saying it should be led by public health officers and not military officers.

But Roque said the IATF would not be abolished since its members were the chief of government agencies in the country.

The Palace official also dismissed criticisms against the government’s Covid-19 response efforts as mere politicking.

The Philippines posted a record-high 8,019 new Covid-19 cases on Monday afternoon, bringing total infections to 671,792 with 577,850 recoveries and 12,972 deaths.