President Rodrigo Roa Duterte led the 47th Cabinet Meeting last night, 2 March 2020, at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room, Malacañan Palace.
The first item on the agenda revolved around the efforts of various agencies to address issues brought about by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Updates relative thereto were presented by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who initially reported that the Philippines does not have new positive cases of COVID-19 in the last four weeks. This means that as of present time, the Philippines has zero cases of persons suffering from the virus.
Sec. Duque proceeded to report that the World Health Organization has acknowledged our efforts in implementing necessary measures as we are among the nine (9) countries which have been able to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Health Secretary, however, added that the Philippines needs to be ready anytime for whatever possibility the virus may cause our country and our people.
The Health Secretary summarized government response to COVID-19 as follows: incident management, planning and multi-sectoral coordination; surveillance and risk assessment; laboratory and diagnostic capacity; clinical best practice management; successful repatriation of all 49 Filipinos from Wuhan; positioned resources, such as personal protective equipment; risk communication and community engagement; imposition of travel ban on China, Hong Kong, and Macau, and selected areas in South Korea; and operational logistics.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease is currently holding its 9th meeting at the Department of Health to continue discussing the measures of the government concerning the said disease.
Subsequent to the report on COVID-19, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra discussed the Bureau of Immigration’s present situation in relation to the “Pastillas Bribery Scheme.” Sec. Guevarra told the Cabinet that he has already directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the corrupt practices in our airport terminals. The focus of this investigation is on two (2) main areas of concern, namely, human trafficking involving outbound passengers, mostly overseas Filipino workers; and escort or facilitation services involving foreign nationals who entered Philippine territory without proper or falsified documentation.
Following the Secretary of Justice’s report was the outlook and action plan of the government in preparation for summer. Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu discussed the water supply outlook. Sec. Cimatu presented his recent inspection of the Angat Dam, where he looked into the capabilities and limitations of the aforesaid dam which supplies more than 97% of the total water supply requirement of Metro Manila. The Environment Secretary assured the President that we will have enough water for the year.
For his part, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi tackled the preparations of the government anent the power sector for short-term and long-term outlook, as well as the corrective policy issuances being undertaken by the Energy Department. Sec. Cusi likewise sought the approval of the issuance of a proposed executive order for the inclusion of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix as the Philippines is expected to have a rapid growth in electricity demand, in which a 24/7 power is essential and necessary.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor and Anti-Money Laundering Council Chairperson Benjamin Diokno then discussed the proposed legislative amendments to Republic Act No. 9160, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA) and Republic Act No. 9372, or the Human Security Act of 2007. The successful passage of key amendments to the AMLA and the Human Security Act, according to Gov. Diokno, will complement or boost our efforts towards an A-credit rating for the country.
Lastly, Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Director General Jeremiah Belgica informed the Cabinet of the National Effort for the Harmonization of Efficiency Measures of Interrelated Agencies (NEHEMIA) Program, as well as of the endeavors which have been undertaken by ARTA to resolve red tape in the bureaucracy.
In the same meeting, Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Año was also able to brief the President and the Cabinet regarding the hostage-taking incident which took place yesterday in Greenhills.
Salvador S. Panelo
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel
& Presidential Spokesperson