Press Briefing

Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque


SEC. ROQUE: Magandang tanghali, Pilipinas.

Mahigit isang taon na po ang nakakalipas nang tinalaga ang inyong abang lingkod ng ating Presidente na ipakulong ang mga opisyales at iba pang mga partido na pumasok sa… ang tinawag ni Presidenteng maanomalyang mga concession tungkol sa tubig na ipinasok ng gobyerno sa Manila Water at sa Maynilad Water.

Well, matapos po ang isang taon, kinukumpirma pa po natin na natapos na po ang re-negosasyon ng 1997 MWSS Concession Agreement kasama ang Manila Water Corporation, at ang susunod naman po ay ang Maynilad. Isang revised concession agreement ang nabuo na nagbibigay nang mas magandang serbisyo ng tubig sa Metro Manila at advantageous sa pamahalaan ang consumers. Patunay ito ang interes ng mga Pilipino ang nasa isip at puso ng ating Presidente.

Nagsilbing mode of contract para sa re-negotiation na ito ang kontrata ng New Clark City Joint Venture Agreement ng Bases Conversion and Development Authority or BCDA as advised by the Asian Development Bank. Ito ang mga mahahalagang probisyon ng nasabing kontrata:

  • Una, para proteksyunan ang interes ng national government, pagtanggal ng government non-interference clauses. Ang ibig pong sabihin kasi nito, kapag nakialam ang gobyerno para sa kapakanan ng mga mamamayan ay pupuwedeng maidemanda ang gobyerno. At sa katunayan, ilang beses na nilang dinemanda ang gobyerno ‘no bagama’t ang gobyerno ay gumagalaw lamang para sa interes ng mga mamamayan.
  • Pagkilala sa Manila Water bilang public utility which makes it more accountable sa pamahalaan at sa publiko. Dahil kapag ikaw po ay isang public utility, ito po ay isang pribilehiyo at hindi karapatan.
  • Pagtanggal ng mga probisyon na nagko-comprise sa mga medium at long-term liabilities or contingent liabilities na tinatawag tulad ng pagtanggal ng performance undertaking ng national government para sa future debt. Wala na po iyong probisyon na bagama’t pribado ang mga kumpaniyang nagbibigay ng tubig, eh aba’y iyong mga pagkakautang nila ay magiging pagkakautang pa ng ating gobyerno. Lahat ng utang at mga gastos o expenditure ng concessionaire ay kinakailangang ma-review at maaprubahan po ng regulatory office na MWSS.
  • Lahat po ng fully recovered assets ay kinakailangang mailipat agad sa pamahalaan para matiyak na walang double payment at the end of the contract. Kasi ang kinikita po nila ay nakabase po doon sa halaga ng kanilang asset. Eh kapag nabayaran na iyan, eh kinakailangang tanggalin na iyan nang mas maliit na ang kikitain ng mga water concessionaire providers.
  • Nalimitahan na rin po ang material adverse government actions, mga aksyon ng Ehekutibo para hindi mananagot o liable ang national government sa mga bagay na outside ng kaniyang control. Eh kung nademanda po ang mga water concession agreement at nagkaroon ng desisyon ang ating hukuman eh bakit naman kinakailangan gobyernong managot doon kung mayroon naman talagang pananagutan ang mga concessionaires.
  • Para naman po maprotektahan ang interes ng consumer, iyong corporate income tax ay hindi matsa-charge sa consumer, hindi tulad ng dating concession agreement. Eh dati nga po kaya nagalit si Presidente eh mantakin ninyo, kumita na nga, ayaw pang magbayad ng tax. Ngayon po ay magbabayad na sila ng tax.
  • Nagkaroon po tayo ng tariff freeze hanggang December 31, 2022. Ibig sabihin, hindi po nila pupuwedeng taasan ang kanilang taripa hanggang 2022. Ang tariff adjustment for inflation, kasi mayroon pa iyan ‘no para naman hindi madehado sila, kinailangan ay iyong kanilang taripa ay adjusted doon sa tinatawag nating inflation. And ngayon po, two-thirds ng consumer price index, hindi katulad ng dati na 100% inflationary impact. So ibig sabihin, kung three percent po ang inflation, two percent lang ang pupuwede nilang maitaas.
  • Pagtanggal ng foreign currency differential adjustment na magriresulta ng pagbabago ng tariff increases ‘no. Dati-rati po kasi, iyong pagbago ng ForEx ay sagot ng gobyerno, parang ginagarantiya natin na iyong walang inflation, walang deflation. Ngayon po, wala na pong ganiyang probisyon.

So kampante po kami na dahil po dito sa bagong concession agreement, revised concession agreement sa Manila Water ay protektado rin po ang gobyerno at ang ating mga consumers.

Susunod pong magkakaroon ng re-negosasyon ay ang Maynilad Water.

Balitang IATF naman po tayo ‘no. Tulad ng akong inanunsiyo noong Sabado, inaprubahan po ng Pangulo ang rekomendasyon ng inyong IATF na i-extend hanggang April 11, 2021 ang umiiral na Enhanced Community Quarantine o ECQ sa Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna at Rizal. Sa panahon ng ECQ, papaigtingin natin ang Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treatment, Reintegration or PDITR strategy. Magkakaroon ng daily monitoring at reporting ang National Task Force or NTF kasama ang implementers ukol dito.

Mamaya ay makakasama natin si Usec. Vergeire para sagutin: Ano ba ang mababago sa ilalim ng umiiral na ECQ? At bakit hindi business as usual ito?

Tataasan din natin ang bilang ng dedicated COVID-19 hospitals sa isolation, quarantine at health facilities. Bukas po, sang-ayon kay Secretary Villar, iyong ating 110 beds para sa mga pasyente ng COVID-19 sa Quezon Institute ay bubuksan na. Ito po iyong larawan. Ito po ay modular hospital na 110 units para sa moderate at severe na mga kaso ng COVID.

Dadagdag naman natin ang kapasidad ng ating contact tracing para mag-improve ang efficiency natin. Kukuha tayo ng mga tao mula sa Department of National Defense at Department of Interior and Local Government, at Department of Labor and Employment para sa ating contact tracing efforts. Nagsasama-sama na po ang lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno para mas mapaigting ang ating contact tracing.

Palalakasin din po natin ang pagpapatupad ng current protocols at guidelines sa local level sa pamamagitan ng pag-review ng mga umiiral na mga local ordinances at executive orders tulad ng pagbibigay ng community service bilang other form of penalty.

Kinakailangan po talaga ipatupad iyong mask, hugas, iwas at bakuna, at kinakailangang mapatawan ng parusa iyong mga hindi sumusunod. Pero ang ating panawagan, kung pupuwede, community service po ang ating ipataw na parusa.

Maaari naman pong ma-relax ang kasalukuyang community quarantine classification. Nakasalalay po ito sa mga indicators na ating nabanggit. Kaya naman tinitiyak ng DILG, DOLE at National Task Force Group for the Management of Returning Overseas Filipinos na maisusumite ang kinakailangan na tamang datos mula sa mga lokal na pamahalaan, workplaces at establishments, at returning Overseas Filipinos at OFWs.

Tungkol naman po sa rapid antigen testing ‘no, inaprubahan po ng inyong IATF na bumili ang Office of the Civil Defense gamit ang kanilang quick response fund nang paunang 500,000 pieces ng rapid antigen test na in-authorize ng Food and Drug Administration. Gagamitin ito kasama ng ating RT-PCR dito po sa NCR Plus pati na rin po sa mga probinsiya ng Pampanga at Batangas.

Samantalang in-adopt ang sumusunod na joint recommendations ng DOLE at DTI, ito po ay para sa mga workplaces:

  • Una, pagpapalakas ng pagpapatupad at monitoring ng pagsunod sa minimum health standards sa workplaces.
  • Pangalawa, pag-rollout sa safety seal certification program at pag-adopt nito sa mga pribadong kumpanya, mga hotels, business establishment, at public transportation units. Ibig sabihin, kapag mayroon pong ganitong seal ay iyan po ay assurance na sumusunod sa minimum health standards at dapat lang po nating tangkilikin iyong mayroong mga ganitong seal.
  • Pangatlo, paghihikayat sa mga mamamayan na mag-report sa mga establisyimento na hindi sumusunod.

Inaprubahan din ng inyong IATF ang request ng Region VI na pansamantalang isuspinde ang inbound passenger travel mula Metro Manila at mga probinsiya ng Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Cebu City at Davao City hanggang April 10, 2021. Kasama po sa Region VI ang Boracay.

Naglabas din ang inyong IATF ng amended omnibus guidelines on the implementation of community quarantine in the Philippines as of April 3, 2021. Ilan lang po ito sa mga amendments ‘no, marami pa po iyan pero ipa-publish po natin iyan:

  • Isinama sa health emergency and frontline services ang mga nasa HMOs, health insurance providers, disaster risk reduction management offices, and public safety officers sa full onsite capacity sa ilalim ng mga lugar na nasa ECQ.
  • Idinagdag din po ang hardware, office supplies at bicycle shops sa essential retails trade and service establishments with full onsite capacity sa mga ECQ areas.
  • Isinama rin po ang public transport providers and operators sa full onsite capacity sa mga ECQ areas.
  • Ang janitorial services ay kasama na rin sa onsite skeleton workforce sa ECQ areas.

Dinagdagan ang mga sumusunod sa ilalim ng ongoing skeleton workforce sa ECQ areas:

  • Una, iyong mga engage, repair at maintenance ng motorized at non-motorized vehicles, kasama ang pagbibenta ng spare parts.
  • Pangalawa, employment activities na may kinalaman sa recruitment at placement sa mga sektor na pinayagan.
  • Pangatlo, mga guro, mga propesor at iba pang staff na may kinalaman sa online, offline and flexible classes, completion of grades at processing ng student credential requirements at document.
  • Pang-apat, mga abogado na magbibigay ng legal representation.

Samantala, itinaas sa disi-otso mula sa dating kinse anyos ang pupuwedeng lumabas sa MECQ at GCQ.

COVID-19 updates naman po tayo. Nasaan na po ang Pilipinas pagdating sa daily confirmed COVID-19 cases as of April 3, 2021? Ito po ha, makikita ninyo po ito: Kinukumpara po ang mga kaso sa buong mundo, at ang Pilipinas po ay kulay pula. Okay? Bagama’t sumipa po ang kaso dito sa ating bayan, eh makikita ninyo naman po in relation to the world, eh mababa pa po ang ating mga kaso in relation to the rest of the world. Kung ikukumpara po sa India, sa Brazil, Estados Unidos, France, Italy at Germany. Okay? So iyan po ay galing po sa Our World in Data, Johns Hopkins University. Huwag po tayong magpapalinlang doon sa mga nagsasabi na tayo na ang naging COVID capital sa buong mundo.

Okay, dito naman po, makikita ninyo iyong mga doses na na-administer na. At bagama’t mababa pa rin po tayo at under one million pa rin tayo, hindi naman po tayo nahuhuli sa ating mga karatig-bansa. Sa katunayan, mas mataas pa rin tayo kaysa sa ating mga karatig-bansa na Brazil, Taiwan, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia at Myanmar.

Okay, as of April 3, 2021, nasa 795,320 na po ang nabakunahan ng first dose COVID-19 vaccines sa 2,669 vaccination sites sa bansa. Sa bilang na ito, 765,871 ay mga frontline health care workers.

Nagsimula na rin po ang pagbabakuna sa senior citizens at individuals with comorbidities. Nasa 16,121 mga lolo at lola ang nabakunahan sa NCR at Region IV-A, samantalang nasa 13,328 naman po ang nabakunahan sa mga individuals with comorbidity.

Sa ilang mga bagay, kinukumpirma ng Palasyo na pinirmahan na po ng Presidente ang appointment ni dating Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo bilang bagong Chief Justice ng Korte Suprema ng Pilipinas. Hindi na po bago si Chief Justice Gesmundo sa hudikatura na kaniyang pinagsilbihan ng maraming taon bilang associate justice ng Kataas-taasang Hukuman at bilang associate justice po ng Sandiganbayan. Dahil dito, tiwala kami na ipagpapatuloy ng bagong Punong Mahistrado na i-uphold ang judicial excellence at independence, pairalin ang rule of law, at pangunahan ang mga reporma para itaguyod ang integridad at propesyunalismo sa hudikatura. Congratulations, Chief Justice Gesmundo!

Dito po nagtatapos ang ating presentasyon. Makakasama natin po ngayon si Department of Justice Secretary Meynard Guevarra, kung mayroon po kayong katanungan tungkol dito sa mga water concession agreements na napirmahan. Kasama rin po natin si WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe at DOH Usec. Rosario Vergeire.

Secretary Meynard Guevarra, do you have an opening statement po or would you prefer po na puro tanong na lang po? The floor is yours.

DOJ SEC. GUEVARRA: Magandang tanghali, Spox Harry. I’m ready to answer questions. You have already summarized the highlights of the revised water concession agreement with Manila Water. So that’s about it. I’m ready to answer any further questions regarding the matter.

SEC. ROQUE: Thank you, Secretary Guevarra. Then, we go to WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe. Sir, of particular concern is the sudden increase of cases in the Philippines and worldwide. What is the WHO perspective on what is happening to the Philippines and the rest of the world? Is this really evidence of incompetence as claimed by some? Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the floor is years.

DR. ABEYASINGHE: Thank you, Spokesperson Harry Roque. It’s a pleasure for me to be back here and good afternoon to everybody. Good afternoon.

Yes, that’s a very important question you are asking. We are seeing week on week increase in the number of cases worldwide, not just here in the Philippines. In merely all of WHO’s six regions. We are seeing an increase of cases week by week of the last four weeks. And there are three factors which are thought to be contributing to this increase. If I may name them:  The first one is the possible circulation or co-circulation of multiple new variants which are attributed to have increased transmissibility and, in some cases, potential for increase severity of disease. These are the so-called variants of concern.

The second issue that has attributed to this increase is a gradual reduction in the compliance of the minimum public health standards that were implemented across the world, in every country due to the long timeframe since the start of the pandemic in January 2020. And many people are showing signs of fatigue in complying with these restrictive practices which have been proven to be effective in reducing the transmission.

And finally, the third contributory factor is the optimism of the arrival and gradual rollout of vaccines which have led to the reduction of the compliance with the minimum public health standards on the part of citizens, but also to optimism on the part of local governments and authorities where they have relaxed the implementation and monitoring of the minimum public health standards oftentimes because their attention was focused on preparing for rollout of vaccines.

So all of these measures have contributed in varying degrees in different countries to the increase of cases we are seeing. I would want to reiterate the fact that the Philippines is not unique in seeing an increase, and this increase is not attributed in any way to a lack or incompetence. It is an issue related to the factors that I mentioned. Of course, that does not take away from the fact that we need to continue to invest and works towards strengthening our preparedness and response capacities on the ground especially to strengthening diagnostic; reduce the time required for diagnostics; only contact tracing, quarantining and isolation of infected people or exposed people; ensuring that adequate health care capacities are available to manage patients particularly those patients who developed severe disease because of they are of advanced age or comorbid conditions; adequate risk communication to the public about where is the transmission happening, which situations need to be avoided. And of course, the vaccine rollout – the most important thing, the vaccine rollout. All of these coming together will help us address the surge.

So let us continue to work together to ensure that we have a coordinated response. WHO has for many months been talking of the need for a coordinated response. Not just a response that is coordinated across member states or countries but also within countries, between different provincial, regional, district government authorities so that there are coordinated response activities that are conducted in  well-coordinated manners so that we can get on top of this increased transmission we are seeing now in the Philippines.

Thank you very much.

SEC. ROQUE:  Thank you very much for your reasoned opinion, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe. Now, we have DOH Usec. Rosario Vergeire. Ma’am, ano ba ho iyong pinagbatayan ng IATF para palawigin pa ang ECQ sa Metro Manila? Ano iyong mga hakbang na gagawin natin para it is not business as usual at ano ang inaasahan natin matapos po itong karagdagang linggo ng ECQ? The floor is yours, Usec. Vergeire.

USEC. VERGEIRE:  Good afternoon, Secretary Harry Roque. And to the other panelist, magandang hapon po. And good afternoon to all of you. Sec, I have slides. If you will permit, I can present for a short while.

SEC. ROQUE:  Yes, please, ma’am. Go ahead, please.

USEC. VERGEIRE:  Can we have the slides, please? So today, we will be just showing ito pong ating situationer at ilang rekomendasyon na nanggaling din po Department of Health kasama po ang IATF.

So noong Abril 4, kahapon mayroon po tayong sa kabuuang 795,051 cases ng COVID-19 sa buong bansa. Kung saan 17.05% po ay aktibong kaso. Mula po sa mga aktibong kaso 98.8% ay asymptomatic, mild or moderate; samantalang 1.19% ang natutukoy na severe or critical COVID-19. Mayroon po tayong naitalang higit na 646,000 recoveries or 82.27% at ang ating accumulative case fatality rate ay nasa 1.69%.

Kahapon din po nakapagtala tayo ng 11,028 na bagong kaso ng COVID-19. Mula po sa mga bagong kasong ito, 5,586 o higit sa kalahati ay mula sa rehiyon ng National Capital Region. Samantala ang Rizal at Cavite ay nanatiling nasa top 5 ng mga lugar na may naitalang pinakamaraming bagong kaso ng COVID-19.

Makikita po natin sa slide na ito ang ating epidemic curve na ang peak noong ikatlong linggo ng Marso ay nalagpasan na noong peak ng kalagitnaan ng Marso. Karamihan po sa mga kaso ay mula pa rin sa National Capital Region at sa Region IV-A. Bukod po dito ang bilang po ng mga nagkakasakit nitong huling linggo ng Marso ay malapit na pong umabot na po sa peak ng bilang ng mga nagkakasakit noong nakaraang linggo.

Noong huling linggo po ng Marso nakapagtala po tayo ng average na 8,615 COVID-19 cases kumpara po sa 7,883 COVID-19 cases noong ikatatlong linggo ng Marso, ito ay higit na mataas sa naitala natin noong buwan ng Enero at Pebrero kung saan may average COVID-19 cases lamang tayo na 1,400.

Ang mga kaso po ay—bukod po dito ay nakapagtala po tayo ng average na 6,695 COVID-19 cases sa NCR lamang. Ito ay higit na mataas mula sa average na apatnaraang COVID-19 cases noong Enero. Nakakakita po tayo ng pagtaas din ng kaso sa Visayas at Mindanao, datapwat ang pagtaas na ito ay mabagal. Kailangan pong maintindihan ng ating mga kababayan na huli pong tumaas ang ating mga kaso last July and August of 2020, we saw the decline in the number of cases after 10 days of the ECQ. And also saw that our healthcare utilization improved after two to three weeks of the ECQ.

Makikita po sa slide na ito na mayroon po tayong downward trend para sa ating mga COVID-19 mortalities. Sa ngayon po ang ating case fatality rate ay nasa 1.73% at nanatiling mas mababa sa global case fatality rate na 2.2%. Bagama’t mababa po ang ating case fatality, binibigyan po namin ng reminder ang ating mga kababayan na magpatingin agad kung kayo ay may sintomas, mag-self isolate at tumawag po kayo sa inyong Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams para mai-transfer po kayo sa appropriate facility.

Para naman po sa bilang ng mga namatay mula sa COVID-19, nakapagtala po ang Department of Health ng 563 COVID-19 deaths o average of 18 deaths kada araw noong buwan ng Marso. Patuloy naman po nating mino-monitor ang Region VII, NCR, CAR, Region IV-A at Region XI para sa mga namamatay.

Para naman po sa ICU bed utilization ng National Capital Region, mayroon po tayong pitong NCR areas na nasa critical risk ang paggamit ng ICU; samantalang anim naman po sa NCR Plus areas ang nasa high risk. Dahil dito, pinapaalalahanan po natin uli ang ating mga kababayan na pumunta po tayo sa ating mga Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams, tawagan po sila para po alam natin kung sa ospital po ba tayo talaga tayo pupunta o mayroon din pong mga quarantine facilities para kayo ay ma-accommodate.

Ang tuluy-tuloy at mabilis na pagtaas ng kaso ay dulot po ng tatlong factor katulad ng sinabi ni Dr. Rabi ng WHO:

Una, ang transmission rate na bumilis ng anim hanggang siyam na beses dulot sa pagdami ng mga variants of concerns na mas nakakahawa at mababang compliance sa mga protocols ng pangkalusugan.

Ikalawa, ang increased mobility at pagkukumpul-kumpol ng mga tao lalung-lalo na sa mga lugar na walang maayos na daloy ng hangin.

At ikatlo, ang paghaba ng panahon na ang isang infected individual ay nanatiling nakakahawa. Humahaba ang panahon na ito habang ang taong may sakit ay hindi pa po nahahanap at na-isolate.

At dahil sa patuloy na pagtaas ng kaso ng COVID-19 at pagkapuno ng ating mga ospital dito sa NCR, napagdesisyunan po ng IATF na ituloy ng isa pang linggo ang ating Enhanced Community Quarantine. Ang ECQ po ay naglalayon na pabagalin ang pagtaas ng bilang ng mga kaso, pigilan ang pagkalat ng mga variants at bigyan ng oras ang ating health system na makahinga at maisaayos ang pagpapatupad ng response strategies at protocols at protektahan pa po natin ang mas maraming buhay.

Base po sa dami ng COVID-19, pati na rin po ang kasalukuyang estado ng ating healthcare utilization rate, nirekomenda po ng Department of Health na ituloy ang Enhanced Community Quarantine ng isang linggo. Ang extension po na ito ay naglalayong i-monitor ang progress natin para sa PDITR strategy. Maaari lamang po tayong makapag-shift sa mababang quarantine classification katulad ng MECQ kung makikita na po nating mas umaayos na po ang ating health system at mayroon na po tayong agarang detection at isolation. Ito po ay pangungunahan ng DILG para sa ating mga local governments; DOLE at DTI para sa mga work places; at iyong ating TGMROF or the Task Group Concerning the Returning Overseas Filipinos para naman po sa ating mga returning overseas Filipinos.

Tutukuyin din po natin ang maximum carrying capacity ng National Capital Region Plus para sa percentage na puwedeng mag-work from home para mabawasan po ang mobility dito po sa NCR Plus Bubble.

In the interim kailangan din po nating agad-agad na ma-decongest ang ating mga ospital para po makahinga ang ating health system at maprotektahan pa natin ang ating healthcare workers.

At ito pong mga sumusunod na nasa slide na ito ay napag-usapan natin kanina with HTAC, with the One Hospital Command, with DILG and the MMDA. So ito po iyong ma-maximize po natin iyong mga lower-level hospitals para magamit for step down care facility, mailipat po natin ang mga pasyenteng mild and asymptomatic from the tertiary hospitals to these lower-level facilities or to quarantine facilities. Kailangan po ng enabling of patient transport para po ang ating mga kababayan ay agad-agad na nabibigyang tugon sa kanilang mga pangangailangang pangkalusugan.

Kailangan po nating i-mainstream ang telemedicine, marami po sa ating mga kababayan ay nawawalan po ng guidance kaya tumutuloy na sila sa mga ospital. We need to ensure that telemedicine is there, para matatawagan at mabigyan po sila ng direksiyon kung ano ang dapat nilang gawin.

Mayroon po tayong sine-set up na LGU triage system, ito po ay para putulin itong pagta-trapik sa ospital at sa One Hospital Command. We will have this LGU triage system kung saan nag local government health officials po ay magsi-set up ng incident command with this triage system para sila po ang nagta-trapik kung saan pupunta ang pasyente, kung sa quarantine facility ba o kailangan ng dalhin sa ospital. This will be enabled also with multiple logistical requirements where they will be navigating patients, may mga ambulansiya po tayong available para po makumpleto ang ating sistema. Ito po ay naka-link sa One Hospital Command at patuloy na ring naka-link sa ating mga ospital. And ito pong pagpapataas ng mga numero ng ating mga kama katulad po ng nasabi na rin kanina ni Secretary Harry Roque.

So ano na po ba ang nagawa natin para ma-augment natin ang ating mga ospital following the increase occupancy rate here in the NCR plus in the other areas of the country. So amin pong pina-fast track ang pagsi-set up ng mga modular tents sa mga ospital across Metro Manila. Mayroon na po tayong walong ospital na mabibigyan na ng mga tents na modular para sa kanilang extension for their facility. WHO also has committed to provide four tents to be used as LGU based triage areas. Ang DPWH po has facilitated the creation of extension for level 3 hospitals, ito na po iyong mga nasabi na rin kanina ni Secretary Harry Roque. Mayroon po tayong 42 healthcare workers from the other regions na mayroong mababang kaso ng COVID-19 na ide-deploy na po ngayong linggo dito po sa iba’t ibang ospital natin.

Ang atin pong mga uniformed personnel medical reservist has been tapped already para i-man nila ang ating temporary treatment and monitoring facilities. Mayroon na rin po tayong na-identify na mga hotel facilities para po mailagak natin ang ating mga healthcare workers   na mga nagkakasakit; and of course, iyong pagproseso po natin ng benepisyo ng ating healthcare workers ay tuluy-tuloy pa rin.

Ito na po ang aking huling slide. Muli po inaanyayahan po natin ang ating mga kababayan, manatili po tayo sa bahay at lumabas lamang kung kinakailangan. Tumawag po kayo agad sa inyong Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams kung mayroon po kayong nararamdamang sintomas ng COVID-19 o komunsulta po agad kayo dito sa telemedicine hotlines natin, e-isolate din ang sarili agad upang hindi na makapaghawa ng iba.

Nais po naming bigyang diin sa panahong ito: Kinakailangan po lahat po tayo ay magtulung-tulong, dapat alam natin ang tamang impormasyon at alam natin ang dapat nating gawin para po tayo ay maprotektahan. Iyon lamang po, Secretary Harry. Thank you very much po.

SEC. ROQUE:  Maraming, maraming salamat, DOH Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire. Punta na po tayo sa ating open forum. Usec. Rocky, simulan na po natin.

USEC. IGNACIO: Secretary, unahin lang daw po muna iyong tanong for Secretary Guevarra if I may po muna. Secretary Guevarra, tanong po ni Sam Medenilla ng Business Mirror: Last week daw po na-announce po ng DOJ na nakapag-sign na po ang Manila Water at ang government ng new concession bill. Will the government still file cases against the said company for its alleged onerous 1997 contract with the government?

DOJ SEC. GUEVARRA: Thank you, Usec. Rocky. Sam, doon sa new concession agreement ay mayroong provision doon about iyong waiver ng mga claims ‘no. At the same time when this revised concession agreement was executed, mayroon ding kasabay na deed of settlement iyan ‘no and release na pinirmahan din by both sides. But this release pertains only to the claims arising from the contract itself ‘no like for example iyong mga in-award ng Singapore arbitration tribunal ay wini-waive na ‘no and any other claims arising from the old concession agreement.

But if you are referring, Sam, to for example criminal liability, that is a totally different matter and that needs further studies ‘no. And besides, somebody’s got to put up the complaint before the Department of Justice or before the Office of the Ombudsman. Right now, we have not heard of any party who has filed or is attempting or thinking of filing something like that with the Office of the Ombudsman or with the Department of Justice.

USEC. IGNACIO: Opo. Secretary, tanong po mula kay Celerina Monte ng Manila Shimbun, Secretary Guevarra: What are the main features daw po of the new concession agreement with Manila Water? Are they no longer—same question po ni Sam Medenilla. And, when do you intend to sign new concession agreement with Maynilad? Will the provisions be likely the same with that of Manila Water?

SEC. ROQUE: Usec. Rocky, Secretary, I think the question has been answered in the presentation itself ‘no, para we can save time ‘no. Pero iyong next question is: When will the revised concession agreement be signed with Maynilad daw po?

DOJ SEC. GUEVARRA: Okay. The other concession agreement ‘no with Maynilad, the negotiations with respect to that will start immediately and we will be proposing essentially the same terms and conditions as those that were contained in the revised agreement with Manila Water. But of course, we recognize the fact na differently situated ang Maynilad compared to Manila Water so there will be probably a lot of discussions also with respect to possible modification of the terms and conditions.

USEC. IGNACIO: Okay. Secretary, iyon pong third question ni Celerina nasagot ninyo na rin po. Iyong follow up po niya: But will the government initiate its own complaint against the water [garbled]?

DOJ SEC. GUEVARRA: Well, I have already answered that question earlier.

SEC. ROQUE: Ah, already answered that question. Sec. Guevarra has answered the question. Okay, next question please.

USEC. IGNACIO: Secretary, tanong mula kay Bella Cariaso ng Daily Tribune: President Duterte daw po ordered FDA and Department of Health to authorize use of Ivermectin. Is this true and confirmed?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po ‘no. Ang nangyari is nag-meeting po noong Sabado ang IATF for almost 10 hours and one of the agenda na na-discuss po iyong Ivermectin ‘no. At ni-report po ni Usec. Domingo, iyong Director General ng ating FDA, na mayroon na pong nag-apply ngayon ‘no for compassionate use ng Ivermectin. So puwede na pong i-process iyan ng FDA, hindi gaya dati na wala pong nag-a-apply. So ‘antayin na lang po natin ang aksiyon ng FDA sa mga naisampa nang aplikasyon for Ivermectin.

USEC. IGNACIO: Opo. Tanong mula kay Rosalie Coz ng UNTV: Ano daw po ang posisyon ng Malacañang sa issue ngayon ng Chinese militia vessels sa West Philippine Sea? Suportado ba ninyo ang pahayag ni DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana na nagsasabing dapat lumayas ang China sa teritoryo natin at ano rin ang komento ninyo sa pahayag ng Chinese Embassy?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po nagbabago ang posisyon ng ating Presidente, ito po iyong kaniyang nabanggit na salita sa UN General Assembly. Unang-una po, hindi po natin isasakripisyo, hindi natin ipamimigay ang ating national territory at ang ating mga exclusive economic zone. Pangalawa po, naniniwala tayo at pinaninindigan natin ang arbitral decision na pabor sa atin. Pangatlo, iriresolba po natin ang hidwaang ito sa pamamagitan po nang mapayapang mga pamamaraan sang-ayon po sa UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Ang position po ng Presidente, paninindigan natin ang karapatan pero hindi po ito isang bagay para tayo po ay gumamit ng dahas. Kampante po ang ating Presidente na dahil nga po mayroon tayong malapit na pagkakaibigan, mariresolba itong hidwaang na ito.

USEC. IGNACIO: Opo. Ang second question niya: Sinasabi ng PhilHealth na kulang ang kanilang mga tao kaya hindi agad naproseso ang claims na dapat bayaran sa mga ospital. Ayon naman sa Private Hospital Association of the Philippines, napipilitan na silang magbawas ng manpower dahil nga kulang na rin sila sa pondo dahil hindi pa bayad ang ibang claims. So ano daw po ang gagawin ng pamahalaan para resolbahin ang suliraning ito?

SEC. ROQUE: Matapos po ang sampung oras na pagmi-meeting ng IATF noong Sabado, nag-meeting pa po kami, tatlong oras kasama po si Executive Secretary at si Senator Bong Go at isa sa mga pinag-meeting-an natin ay iyon ngang sa PhilHealth at nangako naman po si Director Gierran na bibilisan niya iyong proseso. Kasi mayroon nga pong nagsasabi na dapat tanggapin iyong proposal ng DBP na magbi-bills purchase ‘no or babayaran ng DBP ang mga pagkakautang ng PhilHealth tapos kukuha ng reimbursement sa PhilHealth.

Ang naging posisyon po ni Director Gierran kung kumpleto naman ang papeles eh bakit kinakailangan pang umutang sa DBP. So pinagbibigyan po natin ang PhilHealth sa gusto nilang mangyari pero malinaw po ang sinabi lalo na ni Executive Secretary Medialdea – sa panahon ng pandemya, kinakailangan bilisan ang pagbabayad sa mga pribadong ospital dahil 70% pa rin ng ating healthcare capacity ay nasa kamay ng mga pribadong hospital at kung walang pondo ang mga pribadong hospital, wala rin silang kakayahan na gamutin ang mga nagkakasakit. At tinanggap naman po iyang mensahe na iyan ni Atty. Gierran.

USEC. IGNACIO: Thank you, Secretary Roque.

SEC. ROQUE: Okay, punta naman tayo kay Mela Lesmoras, please.

MELA LESMORAS/PTV4: Hi! Good afternoon, Secretary Roque. For my first question about sa ECQ lang po. Nabanggit ninyo kanina sir sa inyong pahayag nga na for at least another week itong ECQ extension. Gaano po kaya kalaki iyong chance na mag-extend pa ito; ano po iyong mga deciding factors natin?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, gaya ng sinabi ni Usec. Vergeire ‘no, pupuwede lang tayong mag-shift sa lower na MECQ ‘pag nakita natin na nagkakaroon ng bunga o resulta iyong ating pinaigting na PDITR ‘no.

Usec. Vergeire, would you like to add?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Yes, sir. Iyon pong ating mga measures na ginagamit para makapag-deescalate tayo ay ito po iyong mga numerong atin pong nakikita araw-araw as reported cases plus tinitingnan din po natin siyempre iyong ating healthcare utilization.

So noong nagdesisyon po para i-extend ang ECQ, ang mga naging basehan po natin would be the healthcare utilization primarily dahil nakikita natin talagang nahihirapan ngayon ang ating sistema. ‘Pag tayo ay nagkaroon uli ng assessment for this week, titingnan po natin ang healthcare utilization, ang numero ng mga kaso pati na rin po iyon pong ating PDITR strategies na pinapatupad natin lalung-lalo na sa mga local government units.

MELA LESMORAS/PTV4: Opo. Thank you po, Usec. Vergeire. Secretary Roque, doon naman po sa ECQ aid, gaano katagal po ba ang utos ng Malacañang sa ating mga LGUs para sa distribution nito at ano po ang order ni Pangulong Duterte nga hinggil dito sa ating mga mamamahagi ng ayuda?

SEC. ROQUE: Sa lalong mabilis na panahon po. Ito po iyong dahilan kung bakit nabago po iyong pinirmahan ni Presidente, dati-rati in kind, ngayon po silent kung in cash or in kind kasi nga ang gustong mangyari ng Presidente sa lalong mabilis na panahon. Sana po itong linggong ito ay mapamahagi na iyang ayuda na iyan dahil ito po ay pangalawang linggo na ng ECQ.

MELA LESMORAS/PTV4: Okay. And for my last question lang, Secretary Roque. May Talk to the People po ba later si Pangulong Duterte? Ano po kaya iyong sked niya this week; mayroon po kayang mga bagong vaccine supply na sasalubungin si Pangulong Duterte?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala pong Talk to the People mamayang gabi, possible po sa Wednesday. At sinabi po ni Presidente na iyong huling pagdating ng Sinovac eh baka iyon na rin po iyong huli niyang pagsalubong sa mga bakuna bagama’t inaasahan natin na sunud-sunod na po ang pagdating ng mga bakuna.

MELA LESMORAS/PTV4: Okay. Thank you po, Secretary Roque at sa ating mga guests.

SEC. ROQUE: Maraming salamat, Mela. Punta tayo uli kay Usec. Rocky, please.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Yes, Secretary. Tanong ni Red Mendoza ng Manila Times: Sabi po niya na-interview daw po niya ang dalawang patients na parehong namatay na naghihintay sa ICU bed sa parking lot ng isang ospital – isang COVID at isang non-COVID. Itong mga sitwasyon daw po ang patunay na may problema ang ospital at nagmamakaawa na sila na ayusin. Ano daw po ang reaksiyon ng Palasyo dito?

SEC. ROQUE:  Usec. Vergeire? Ang sinabi nga po ni Usec. Vergeire kanina talagang dinadagdagan natin iyong mga hospital bed capacity natin, bukas nga po iyong 110 bed capacity sa Quezon Institute, among others. Usec. Vergeire?

USEC. VERGEIRE:  Opo, Sir, ito po ay naipakita natin kanina kung ano ang mga ginagawa ng ating pamahalaan para ma-decongest natin ang mga hospital. Katulad ng sabi po namin, nakapag-meeting tayo kaninang umaga, alas-onse with HTAC, with DILG, with MMDA and the One Hospital Command at atin pong ipapatupad itong mga pinakita nating interim measures, the immediate measures ngayon pong araw na ito hanggang ngayong linggo para ma-decongest natin ang ating mga ospital.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Iyong second question niya, Secretary nasagot na po. Tanong po niya kay Dr. Abeyasinghe, from Red Mendoza: Is it fair to compare the Philippines as having the most number of active cases in the Western Pacific region and what does it say on the country’s COVID response

DR. ABEYASINGHE: Thank you, Usec. Rocky. I think I already addressed that question partially. The fact that country reports a large number of cases is dependent on many factors. In some places, it’s determined by the population size, the testing capacity, the health systems capacity. So we know that there are significant differences among these different countries. So what will be more accurate is to look at the incidence rates or the number of cases per 100,000 or 1 million population, this would going to point where the Philippines actually is. But again, there are multiple factors that affect the transmission in a country because countries are different from each other. And so, we have to keep in mind all of these factors when we are assessing how severe is the outbreak in a country.

Right now, with the confirmation of three variants of concern in the Philippines, thus, variant of interest is in the B3 variant which was just detected in Philippines and Japan, the situation is different probably to some extent by the presence of these variants. So we have to look at in this context. That is what I was pointing to early on when I said that the increase we are seeing in the Philippines in the recent two weeks is not uniquely only relevant to the Philippines, we are seeing that kind of increase in many countries.

And I would also like to highlight that we are even seeing this increasing trend even in countries that are doing an extensive vaccination.  So this is something that we need to bear in mind that if I may use this opportunity, this is another opportunity that we need to reinforce that prevents variants of concern or variants of interest. They know that the minimum public health standard when implemented fully and adequately, is adequate to interrupt transmissions. So, let us ensure that our focus is on that, so that we are not distracted by other issues and ensure that we have coordinated response to facilitate the full implementation of the PDITR strategy to limit the transmission and to take care of those people who require specialized care, because of the onset of severe disease. Thank you.

SEC. ROQUE:  Dadagdagan ko lang po ano. Naka-flash ngayon po sa ating screen iyong Philippine World ranking sang-ayon po sa Johns Hopkins University. Sa total cases, nananatili po tayong nasa number 30. Bakit po tayo nanatili, bagama’t sumipa ang mga numero ng kaso sa Pilipinas? Kasi nga po sa iba’t ibang parte ng daigdig ay sumipa rin ang mga numero. Sa active cases from 21, naging 19 po tayo; sa cases per one million, nanatili po tayong 134th in the world at sa case fatality, talagang napababa po natin iyan, nasa number 94 po tayo from 82. So iyan po ang ating standing sa international community. Kagaya ng sinabi po ni Dr. Rabi, sa buong daigdig po tumataas ang numero, dahil sa mga variants na ito.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Question from Red Mendoza for Dr. Rabi: Proponents of the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin has continually badgered the DOH, FDA and even WHO for not considering the effects of the drug considering the lack of clinical trial data, using the influence of media to demonize science. Does it mean the citizens are now desperate to look for a cure and they resort to bullying science and use unproven claims as basis? How does the WHO intensify its efforts to curb disinformation like this?

DR. ABEYASINGHE:  Thank you, Usec. Rocky. I will start by saying that probably, the fight against the infodemic has been even more difficult than to fight against the pandemic. There have been situations where this kind of misinformation has been driving and infecting on the capacity of national government to respond to the pandemic because they are seriously distracting technical people form doing what they need to do. Very clearly come out with a statement that have been backed by the European Medical Association, the USFDA, in fact, the manufacturers, the largest manufacturer of the Ivermectin, that Ivermectin has not   proven efficacy for COVID-19, against COVID-19. Even if we look at it from preventive prospective there is no evidence that the supports it.

That is why WHO came out with a very clear position that the potential use of the Ivermectin as a prophylactic or as a therapeutic agent needs to evaluated through an equally strong clinical trials, not just the solidarity trials. Previously, we have a similar situation with Hydroxychloroquine. We look at several anti-viral drugs [unclear] using that there is no significant impact. Let us remember COVID-19 many patients recovered because it’s a viral disease without any specific treatment provided they have good immune systems. More than 95% of them recovered without specific treatments. So if you give those patients a particular drug and see that that drug cure them. That is not science; that is not evidence. And this is what happening again with possibly, Ivermectin.

We have not [unclear] on that. That is why WHO says, let’s do clinical trial that has the power to differentiate whether what we have seen is because of chance, or there is the actual efficacy of the drug. When we have that evidence, we will be ready to share.

In the meantime, let’s focus on what we know more and not create until confidence in the people that because they take A or B they are going to be protected. We have seen that repeatedly, people who have taken for example the Hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin falling to COVID. So let’s refrain from this and let the scientists do what they have to do.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Thank you, Dr. Rabi. Secretary Roque?

SEC. ROQUE:  Yes, punta tayo kay Trish Terada.

TRICIAH TERADA/CNN PHIL.  Hi! Good afternoon, Spox and to all our guests. Sir, first question. I will just press on the parameters for easing or the escalating to lockdowns. Ano po iyong specific parameters or indicators that will prompt the IATF to place NCR plus from ECQ to MECQ? For example, Sir, specifics like how many numbers of beds do we need? How many numbers of cases will prompt the IATF to lower the level of quarantine status?

SEC. ROQUE:  Kapag umabot po sa kritikal iyong ating health care utilization rate ay isa po iyang dahilan para sa escalation at tinitingnan din po natin iyong attack, kung iyong daily attack rate at saka iyong two-week average attack rate kapag iyan po ay umabot doon sa kritikal ay isa rin po iyan dahilan para ma-escalate ang ating quarantine classification. So hindi po tayo nagbabago ng criteria.  At pinakita po ni Usec. Vergeire na kaparehong critical care capacity natin at saka iyong ating attack rates ay nasa critical kaya po nasa ECQ tayo.

TRICIAH TERADA/CNN PHILS:  So kapag bumaba pa po tayo, sir, lower than the critical level, puwede pong mag-ease ng restrictions. And ano po, sir, iyong target numbers natin, for example, average or what number per day iyong tinitingnan natin to lower the status?

SEC. ROQUE: Usec. Vergeire, ano po raw iyong ating target with the two-week ECQ which probably will be coupled by MECQ or GCQ at the third week ‘no, after the two-week ECQ?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Yes, sir. For healthcare utilization, we need to see that the utilization will be down to at least 60% before we can say that we are at that safe level. So currently, for the overall utilization here in NCR, we have about 78 to 80% utilization; and for ICU beds, as I have shown you a while ago, almost 100% in most cities. So we need to bring that down so that we will be able to say that our healthcare system can manage.

Aside from that, we have our local government or CODE indicators, these are the PDITR indicators. So we have set targets per week wherein we need to see all contacts traced within 24 hours and they are isolated within 24 hours; also, looking at the percentage of those mild and asymptomatic being treated in quarantine facilities, and only those moderate to severe cases in hospitals.

So this is just a composition of many indicators for these PDITR strategies. But what would be most important really would be for us to look at the healthcare utilization. The health system should be able to manage and should be able to breathe and should have this decongestion before we can say that we can easily lift the restrictions for this community quarantine.

TRICIAH TERADA/CNN PHILS: All right. Thank you, Usec. Vergeire.

Spox, I’ll just go about the topic on ayuda or government aid. Tama po iyong pagkakaintindi namin ‘no, iyong binigay kamakailan is a one-time aid to poor families or to poor individuals. But how did the government decide on giving one thousand pesos? Do you think it would be enough to sustain these people for two weeks since na-extend ho tayo sa ECQ? Or is the government considering another round of aid?

SEC. ROQUE: Ka-clarify ko lang po: This is 1,000 per person or up to 4,000 per family. So up to four [thousand] po iyan. So kasi kapag sinabi nating one thousand, parang one thousand lang talaga for two weeks.

Pangalawa po, sinabay po natin iyong unang linggo ng ECQ sa Semana Santa na talaga namang dalawang araw lang po nagtatrabaho iyong ating mga kababayan kasi Wednesday po, Thursday, Friday ay wala na pong trabaho iyan ‘no. So dalawang araw lang po iyong nawalang kita nila, at ngayon po ay mawawalan ng limang araw na kita. Aaminin po natin na hindi po sapat iyan, pero ang ayuda naman po kaya tinatawag na ayuda, it is assistance. Hindi po talaga sapat ‘no, it is intended to tide them over ‘no.

At ang sabi nga po ni Secretary Avisado, gustuhin man nating magbigay pa nang mas marami, this is a one-time aid of 4,000 for a family of four ‘no. So iyon po, it is an ayuda; we acknowledge na hindi po sapat ito, pero it is to provide for the bare essentials of life for two weeks na ang number of days na nawalan ng trabaho ang ating mga kababayan is about seven days.

TRICIAH TERADA/CNN PHILS: Sir, next question, we understand that the cases have been increasing in different parts of the world [garbled] government po [garbled] that the virus is mutating. But with the situation that we are in now, of course, specific to our country ‘no, what is the President think about how everything is being handled, did the President ever reached a point na he would consider changing leadership? Baka hindi ba, sir, nakita ng Presidente na posibleng may lapses in leadership kung bakit po tayo umaabot sa ganito?

SEC. ROQUE: I believe it was Dr. Ted Herbosa, a specialist on emergency medicine, who said that it is contrary to the basics of emergency medicine to change leadership in the middle of a pandemic.

So I don’t think we will achieve anything by that. And in fairness to those who are leading this initiative, we have employed what is known as one-government approach; hindi lang naman po WHO ito.

Alam ko na po ang tanong ninyo: Si Dr. Duque ang tanong ninyo ‘no. Hindi lang naman po si Dr. Duque ang involved dito. Lahat po ng mga magagaling na mga doktor at mga scientists sa DOH, sa DOST at iba’t ibang sangay ng gobyerno ay involved po sa ating COVID response. Hindi lang po isang tao ang nagdidesisyon dito ‘no. Ayan po ang dahilan kung bakit tinayo nating ang IATF. Pero the brief answer is: Hindi na po pupuwede iyan dahil iyan po ay magiging labag doon sa basic principle na kapag may pandemya, ibigay muna ang kinakailangan at huwag munang pag-usapan iyang liderato na iyan.

TRICIAH TERADA/CNN PHILS: Sir, one last, very short lang. Kasi, sir, iyong J&J I think already applied for a permit here in the Philippines. I understand, kapag nangyayari po iyong mga applications, mayroon na rin pong talks kung kailan iyong target na darating. I believe they are targeting five million vaccines for the Philippines. Napag-usapan na po ba, na-discuss kung kailan target na dumating po iyong J&J, at least iyong initial delivery?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, alam ko po mayroong target delivery iyan ‘no. Hindi ko lang po maalala, but I’m referring to the earlier report of Secretary Galvez and I’m looking at his last report to the President. Ang J&J po, at least from his report to the President, is scheduled to arrive by the third quarter specifically in the month of July. Baka po ito magbabago, at malalaman po natin ito sa susunod na report ni Secretary Galvez kay Presidente.

TRICIAH TERADA/CNN PHILS: All right, Spox. Salamat po and salamat po sa ating guests.

SEC. ROQUE: Maraming salamat po. Balik tayo kay Usec. Rocky.

USEC. IGNACIO: Yes, Secretary, unahin ko na po iyong tanong ni Vanz Fernandez for Secretary Guevarra: How will the revised concession bills with Manila Water bring about better water utility services to the Filipino people; and how will this help in the prevention of future water shortage?

SEC. GUEVAREA: Well, some of the highlights of the new revised concession agreement with Manila Water had been introduced earlier by Spox Harry. But I’d like to just repeat some of the more important ones. Definitely, the revised water concession agreement will be beneficial to the consumers because it is now—I mean, this concession is now deemed as a public utility, and therefore, all the things that are associated with an enterprise being considered public utility will now be applied to this water concession agreement.

One very important feature of the revised agreement is on the matter of corporate income tax ‘no which used to be part of the expenditures being passed on by the concessionaire to the consuming public. Now, definitely, hindi na siya kasama na maitsa-charge.

And as already mentioned earlier, wala tayong magiging increase in water rates or tariffs until December 31 of 2022, out of consideration for the existing situation natin. So ang next na possible adjustment sa ating water rates will happen only in 2023.

Mayroon mga factors na na-mention earlier si Spox Harry like sa pag-a-adjust ng water rates na ibabase halimbawa sa consumer price index, iyong inflation rate. Hindi na iyong kabuuan ng CPI ang magiging basehan but only two-thirds of that.

Pati iyong foreign currency adjustments ay wala na rin, hindi na rin iyan iko-consider. Kaya kung may foreign loans ang water concessionaire na binabayaran nila sa foreign exchange at nagkaroon ng pagtaas ng foreign exchange rate, na mahal ang US dollar for example. Iyong ganoong klaseng increase or adjustment in the foreign exchange rate will not be considered anymore in determining the water charges to be billed sa ating mga consumers ‘no.

Sa government side ay malaki ang naging pagbabago at ang pinakamahalaga rito ay iyong pagtanggal sa napaka-onerous na non-interference clause na hindi puwedeng pakialaman ng national leadership, ng national government ang anumang mapagkakasunduan ng regulatory office at ng water concessionaire regarding water rates. Nangyari na ito before, at tayo ay nademanda by both Manila Water and Maynilad at tayo ay nagkaroon tayo ng damages where we were asked to pay damages amounting to almost 11 billion pesos for the two water concessionaires.

But of course, in the case of Manila Water, and I think also in the case of Maynilad, they already waived iyang mga award that was given to them by the arbitration court ‘no. But here in the revised agreement, wala na iyang ganiyang possible [garbled] or prohibition to the national government from interfering. So kung tingin ng national government ay hindi makabubuti sa mga consumers ang let say ang water rates na ini-impose ng water concessionaire, hindi makatarungan, hindi fair, hindi equitable, then the national government may enter the picture, may put its foot down and intervene if necessary without fear of getting penalized or getting sued for such intervention.

So iyon ang mga mahahalaga na mga provisions ng ating bagong concession agreement with Manila Water.

USEC. IGNACIO: Thank you, Secretary Guevarra. Secretary Roque, question from Kris Jose of Remate, nabanggit ninyo na po ito, tungkol doon sa inaasahang pagdating pa ng mga vaccine. Ang susunod pong tanong mula kay Ace Romero: Bakit po nabanggit ng Pangulo na huling pagsalubong na niya sa arriving vaccines iyong sa Sinovac?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, ang inaasahan naman niya ay sunud-sunod na iyong pagdating, so it will just be, kumbaga, matter of course na marami nang bakunang darating ‘no as supplies ease up worldwide ‘no. So iyon lang po ‘yun, hindi na siya physically na pupunta sa airport para salubungin iyong mga bakuna.

USEC. IGNACIO: Opo. Question from Tina Panganiban-Perez ng GMA News: Marami daw po nalilito sa category sa vaccination. Baka puwede daw po malinawan sinu-sino ang nasa A4? Ano ba ang binabanggit sa A4 na essential sector? Iniisip ng iba kasama ang nasa food business. Tama po ba daw iyon?

SEC. ROQUE: Well, isasapinal pa po iyan at may mga rekomendasyon na kasama ang food business diyan. In fact, maraming mga rekomendasyon. Ako po, naninindigan ako na dapat makasama iyong mga kasama nating mga mamamahayag sa A4 pero wala pa pong pinal na desisyon diyan sa A4 kasi wala pa po tayo sa A4 – nasa A1, A2 at A3 lang po tayo. Pero ang basic category ng A4, iyong mga sundalo at kapulisan, iyong mga nagtatrabaho sa mga ECQ industries, iyong bukas sa mga ECQ.

At tama po kayo ‘no, pinag-uusapan iyong mga nasa transportasyon, nasa mga nagbibenta sa palengke dahil iyan naman po ay bukas kapag ECQ, iyong mga food retail, iyong mga frontline government workers, security guards, delivery services pero wala pa pong pinal na desisyon. Hayaan ninyo po, as soon as maisapinal iyan ay inaanunsiyo naman po natin at kapag magsisimula na iyong A4.

USEC. IGNACIO: Okay. From Rosalie Coz ng UNTV. Hindi ba daw po iaapela ng Malacañang ang pagkasama ng Pilipinas sa UK red list?

SEC. ROQUE: Eh ang paningin po natin is matagal na rin naman nating hindi pinapapasok iyong mga galing din sa UK at ito naman po ay panandaliang measure ‘no. So kagaya ng hindi natin pagpasok sa mga pasahero galing sa UK, eh hindi naman po tayo pinagbabawal ha. Ang ibig sabihin lang noong latest restriction ng UK, kinakailangan mag-hotel quarantine po iyong mga Pilipino na pupunta po sa UK – iyon po iyong aking pagkakaintindi. So kung ano po iyong ginagawa natin sa mga dayuhan, iyon din po ang niri-require ngayon ng UK. Dati-rati kasi pasok lang nang pasok lahat ng bisita sa UK.

USEC. IGNACIO: Okay. Thank you, Secretary.

SEC. ROQUE: Maraming salamat po. Melo Acuña, please.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA DAILY PACIFIC: Good afternoon and Happy Easter, Secretary Harry.

SEC. ROQUE: Happy Easter.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA DAILY PACIFIC: Yeah. During my interview last Good Friday with the President of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong, he said that the tripartite agreement will be signed probably by Easter Sunday. Would you know if the tripartite agreement has been signed yesterday?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi ko pa po alam. Pero ang alam ko naman kung hindi Easter Sunday, it will be today. Pero siguro naman it’s too much to ask Secretary Galvez to work on a Sunday dahil on a Saturday we all work po for 14 hours on Black Saturday. So siguro naman puwedeng mamahinga on Easter Sunday.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA DAILY PACIFIC: Okay. Let’s leave it at that. I have a question for Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe with your indulgence, Secretary Harry?

SEC. ROQUE: Yes, please.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA DAILY PACIFIC: Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, you mentioned 3 factors why there’s the upsurge in COVID-19 cases and one of these is the slow rollout of vaccines. But I was informed that there are only 2.5 million doses of vaccines and about 900,000 have been vaccinated. So without the vaccines, there is nothing we can rollout. What would WHO say about such a situation?

DR. ABEYASINGHE: Thank you, Melo Acuña for the question. Really nice to see you again. The point that I mentioned was not the slow rollout of vaccines. What I mentioned as a contributing effect was the optimism driven by the arrival of vaccines. But since you are raising the issue of rollout of vaccines, I want to also touch on this because this is an important component of the response to vaccine rollout. The problem is that, we, as a global community are faced with a vaccine shortage and that vaccine shortage has also being driven by the recent increase in cases.

So for example, the Serum Institute of India which was exporting large quantities of vaccines to COVAX, based on a decision by the Indian government to protect the Indian population because of the surge of cases has decided that they will not be exporting vaccines till the end of this month. It’s for all Indian vaccine manufacturers. We are also seeing similar restrictions being place by other developed countries and groups of countries. So when that happens, accessing vaccines that meet the requirements from safety and efficacy becomes a challenge.

WHO is working together with many of the manufacturers to see how we can address that. We are exploring several avenues but what has happened actually is that even the planned deliveries are being delayed and scaled down because of the immediate shortage that the globe is facing. And you must have heard my Director General repeatedly saying that many countries are in a rush to vaccinate all of their population when we are trying to have a more equitable distribution, where we provide protection to the most vulnerable and the most at-risk groups.

And this is why WHO has been encouraging countries that have excess doses at present to share those, because we believe that within the third quarter and fourth quarter of this year significantly increase in manufacturing capacity will happen and newer vaccines will also be included in the COVAX portfolio. So as these vaccines become available, we are optimistic that we can still deliver on the vaccines required to protect the 20% of the population that is most vulnerable through the COVAX.

But the same restrictions also apply to bilateral agreements that countries have signed with manufacturers. Simply put, there is a challenge in accessing vaccines. So we are working continuously with the National Task Force and the DOH to maximize the impact of the currently available vaccine by prioritizing the health care workers in areas where we are seeing a surge by prioritizing the elderly and the comorbids where we are seeing a surge.

But we are also conscious of the fact that we need to protect all the health care workers because this virus is spreading all over. And if we are looking at redeploying health workers from areas with low transmissions, we need to ensure that all health workers, all frontliners are vaccinated so that they can care for patients. Because if the health care workers are protected, we not only minimize the infection among health care workers, we have adequate staff to care for the people who are sick and that will reduce the deaths even among the severe cases. So the vaccines are powerful tool and we need to optimize their use so that we maximize the impact. This is a responsibility that we all share as humanity.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA DAILY PACIFIC: Yeah. Thank you, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe. For Undersecretary Vergeire, please. Good afternoon and Happy Easter, Dr. Vergeire. I just have 2 important points. There are reports that there are hospital workers who tested positive and under quarantine today. So, how do we complement people who are under quarantine? Who would replace them? And then number two, while we have enough bed capacity, ICU capacity for COVID-19 positive cases, do we have enough oxygen so far?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Melo and Happy Easter also to you. First, when it comes to the healthcare workers, our hospitals have their contingency plans when these kinds of events happen. So whenever this kind of a situation happen in our hospitals, they do their strategic shift of workers where they would be extending some of them doing hospital work and then some of the units are being closed.

Like for example, that of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, temporarily they have closed their Outpatient Department and have temporarily suspended elective surgeries. This is because some of their health care workers has been infected and they have to undergo this 14-day period to recover.

So whenever this thing happens to our hospitals, they do their re- strategizing so that their healthcare workers can fully accommodate those individuals or patients that are being managed their hospital. Augmentation will come in, but they have to do their contingency plans also within their hospitals.

So the second one, would be… Mr. Melo what’s the second question. I’m sorry.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA PACIFIC DAILY:  The oxygen supply in the country.

USEC. VERGEIRE:  We have still not received any report of having this shortage of oxygen supply among our hospitals here in the National Capital Region. Although we are of course preparing if this will happen, so we are… we have engaged already and coordinated with units in government especially in DOH that should be able t0 ensure that the oxygen supply in the country will be enough for our individuals who have COVID19.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA PACIFIC DAILY: Thank you very much for the assurance, Undersecretary. For Secretary Guevarra. Sir, good afternoon and Happy Easter. I just want to be updated on the latest activities of the Department of Justice investigating the alleged extrajudicial killings that took place recently including the bloody Sunday in Region IV-A. Have you received updates from your personnel?

SEC. GUEVARRA:  Thank you, Melo. Well, we have already created—first of all, Melo, we have already placed these incidents under the jurisdiction of the EO 35 inter-agency committee ‘no, the one dealing with extrajudicial killings.

We are not saying that this is exactly a case of EJK. But based on the initial information that we gather there is a possibility that it may actually fall under the jurisdiction of the EO 35 committee. So in the process of investigation, there will be a determination whether in fact this is a case of EJK. So that is not a final conclusion as yet. This will be borne out by the actual investigation.

Anyway, for now the DOJ has created the necessary special investigating teams to investigate each of these incidents that happened in the CALABARZON area as well as the recent killing of a labor leader. So all of these special investigating teams have already been constituted and sad to say that their movements are somehow restricted by the ongoing situation, we are under ECQ. But they have started working and they will submit their initial reports to me at the soonest possible time.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA PACIFIC DAILY:  Would you have any update on the PDEA-PNP shooting?

SEC. GUEVARRA:  According to the NBI Chief, Melo, the Acting Chief, he will be submitting very soon a report on that encounter between the PDEA and the PNP. They have already wound up their investigation on the matter and they will be submitting the progress report very soon.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA PACIFIC DAILY:  Very good, thank you very much. Secretary Harry, I just have one last question.

SEC. ROQUE:  Melo, I’m sorry, but you exceeded the number of questions.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA PACIFIC DAILY:  If it is posible for you to invite DSWD, because I have been getting questions from senior citizens on the rollout of the assistance to senior citizens by DSWD and the local government.

SEC. ROQUE:  We will.

MELO ACUÑA/ASIA PACIFIC DAILY:  Thank you, Secretary.

SEC. ROQUE:  Thank you, Melo.  We go now to Usec. Rocky again, please.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Yes, Secretary, tanong ni Leila Salaverria ng Inquirer for Usec. Vergeire. Iyong first question niya nasagot na po. Second question: Could you give us an update on the hiring of additional healthcare workers. How many additional workers would the DOH need to cope with the surge in cases and is it having problems in getting applicants?

USEC. VERGEIRE:  Yes, Usec. Rocky. The emergency hiring is ongoing. We have started this last year and up to now we are still doing that. We have already able to hire 7,000 plus workers. But for the specific increase in the number of cases right now especially in the NCR plus bubble, we have downloaded funds to our hospitals so that they can do the direct hiring so that the process would be much faster, because they need healthcare workers, the soonest possible time.

As to how many, it would depend on the hospital how many workers they are needing for now. They have the money and they can hire healthcare workers, unfortunately the challenge is still would be the update. We have the money to hire, but not many healthcare workers are heading the call, maybe because of reasons of fear and some are really deployed already in other industries.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Thank you, Usec. Vergeire. For Secretary Roque. Question from Leila Salaverria: After Secretary Lorenzana asked Chinese ships to leave Julian Felipe Reef, China said the reef is part of Nansha Island and has been the traditional fishing grounds of Chinese fishermen. How does Malacañang respond to this?

SEC. ROQUE: I think that has been asked and answered. We will not give up, even a single inch of our national territory or our Exclusive Economic Zone and we hope that our friendly relations will result to peaceful resolution of this latest impasse.    

USEC. IGNACIO:  Did the Chinese Ambassador mention that the reef belongs to China when he met with President Duterte?

SEC. ROQUE:   I read the transcript, wala naman pong sinabing ganoon. But of course, the Spokesperson of China has said what you mentioned. And I think, Secretary Lorenzana was correct in pointing out that we consider that area as part of also of Philippine territory and Exclusive Economic Zone.

USEC. IGNACIO:  Thank you, Secretary Roque.

SEC. ROQUE:  Yes, we go to Pia Rañada of Rappler, please.

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER:  Sir, just two questions for and then one question for Secretary Guevara.

Sir, we’ve heard people dying while waiting for hospital treatment and people desperately searching for hospital rooms for their love ones. May we ask, why did this happen? Why was the government not ready of the surge as evidenced by the One Hospital Command, ‘di ba parang being swarmed and not being to handle the calls and then the fact hospitals are lacking in beds? I mean isn’t this the whole point of a quarantine classifications system. How come the government wasn’t ready?

 

SEC. ROQUE:   Usec. Vergeire, please?

 

USEC. VERGEIRE:  Yes, Pia, it’s not really that we are not ready. But really the increase in the number of cases was something that was not really expected because of the… as we have said the major contributor to this increase in the number of cases are the variants and these variants have this increased transmissibility of 6 to 9 times. So in a normal situation, like if we do not have the variants we are prepared, because we were able to reach that mandated 20% or 30% in private facilities for the number of COVID beds. Unfortunately, the variants have increased much faster and the spread has been tremendous that is why the numbers of cases have increased this much.         

     

 

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER:  We don’t really blame just the variants for this and even if the variants were the only reason for this, aren’t we also responsible for stopping of the spread of these variants in the first place, that is why we implemented the travel bans and then we had other measures because of these variants. I mean why we aren’t prepared for the variants themselves?

 

USEC. VERGEIRE:  Precisely the point, the minimum health protocols have to be complied with and as what we have observed and based on how we have analyzed things, we have seen that there has been this decline in the compliance to minimum health protocols and the root cause of the problem would be this compliance to health protocols.

 

So if you are not complying and the compliance is low, the variants would easily spread and that is what happened to all of us.

 

Now with regard to the healthcare utilization, we are prepared and target of having this 20% or 30% allocation for the beds are there, unfortunately the system or the organization of the system as we say where patients flocked the hospitals because of their fear and panic, even though these patients have mild symptoms or asymptomatic symptoms. So this is one of the things that we are trying to address right now by having this triaging with the local government so that we can be able to manage this.

 

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER:  And then last question for Secretary Roque. Sir, you mentioned the three-hour meeting between IATF, ES and Senator Bong Go. Sir, may we ask who called this meeting and what where the ES’s primary concerns in the meeting?

 

SEC. ROQUE:  It was just operational, trying to find out what else can be done to assist the Department of Health.       

 

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER:  Bakit sir may need pa for this additional meeting when usually it’s just the IATF who discuss those things with… like on these issues?

 

SEC. ROQUE:  Because we always want to serve the public better! Okay, thank you, Pia.

 

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER:  Last question for Secretary Guevarra po sana, okay lang po ba? Secretary Guevarra this is from Lian Buan. Her question is in last year ECQ you spoke from Malacañang and cited RA 11332 and Article 151 as basis to arrest without warrant, we saw that happen. And in this ECQ, what’s the DOJ signal, should police continue to arrest without warrant those who caught outside or should they just be sent home?

 

DOJ SEC. GUEVARRA:  Well, you know, Pia, we discussed that during the last IATF meeting and I informed the IATF that the better legal basis for enforcing itong mga health protocols would be the local ordinances that have been issued by the local government units, because these are very direct to the point ‘no.

 

Iyong statutes, like the mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases, mayroon doong provision on non-cooperation. But you know, medyo hindi siya shoot na shoot eh, hindi siya talaga very exact to the actual violation kaya nga we are relying more on the ordinances issued by the local government units rather than a nationwide general statute like the RA 11332 or the mandatory reporting.

 

So that’s what I told them. And I also recommended that in the enforcement, in the stricter enforcement of our ordinances, LGUs consider the possibility of imposing na lamang the penalty of community service for those who will continue to violate our ordinances rather than putting them in jail or fining them kasi nga ay talagang mahirap nga ang buhay sa ngayon. Thank you.

 

PIA RAÑADA/RAPPLER: All right. Thank you.

 

SEC. ROQUE: Yes, back to Usec. Rocky, please.

 

USEC. IGNACIO: Yes, question from Ian Cruz ng GMA News po for Secretary Roque: Sinabi raw po ni Vice President Leni Robredo na okay naman na mag-ECQ pero sana raw po ay detalyado at nag-o-operate na may specific objectives, kung hindi raw, paano masusukat na nagtatagumpay tayo.

 

SEC. ROQUE:  Sinagot na po iyan ni Usec. Vergeire, iyong mga gagawin natin kung bakit it is not business as usual. Iyong mas maigting pong PDITR at mayroon pong score sheet na binigay po sa ating mga lokal na pamahalaan para magkaroon po ng self-assessment ang ating mga lokal na pamahalaan.

 

USEC. IGNACIO: Iyong second question po niya, sinagot ninyo na rin po, iyong pahayag ni Mayor Marcelino Teodoro ng Marikina.

Question for Dr. Rabi: What doable measures can you recommend the Philippine government in order to have sufficient quarantine facilities?

DR. ABEYASINGHE: The issue is that patients or suspected context need to be quarantined. Now, what we are seeing from early on in the increase that we are seeing now is that due to delays in confirmation of diagnosis, we find that many people in the same household are already infected by the time diagnosis is confirmed.

So what could be best is unless people having comorbidities or of elderly age, it’s best that everybody, where we have confirmed cases quarantined in their homes because they are at low-risk, and this way we will prevent unnecessary congestion in the out-patient units and unnecessary burdening health care workers in the hospitals. This will provide them the ability to care for those people who are most sick.

If there are limitations in quarantining at home because you have somebody who is elderly or who has comorbidities, then it is best that such people are quarantined in TTMFs. Now, there are several options, we have the mega TTMFs, we have the smaller TTMFs. And we also know that there are hotels being used as quarantine centers. So there are several options where people can be quarantined early and rapidly to protect more people being infected, and this needs to happen rather fast because of the increase transmissibility of these new variants which we believe are circulating in the NCR and particularly in parts of Marikina.

So if they can do that quickly, we would potentially prevent new people getting infected and that would then reduce the number of people requiring intensive care and severe management in hospitals.

USEC. IGNACIO: Thank you, Dr. Rabi. Secretary Roque?

SEC. ROQUE:  Yes, Hannah Sancho please of SMNI.

HANNAH SANCHO/SMNI:  Hi, sir! Good afternoon. Sir, ayon po Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines na tinatayang nasa bilyung-bilyong piso po ang mawawala sa ekonomiya ng bansa iyong sa pagpapatupad natin ng one week extension ng ECQ po dito sa NCR Plus. Ano po ang tugon natin dito sa private sector, Sir? Sinasabi rin po nila na hindi po daw kinuha ang kanilang opinyon dito sa pag-extend po natin, sir.

SEC. ROQUE: Naku, magpapatunay ako sa iyo na ang economic team po talaga ay pinaglaban po at pinaglalaban pa rin ang mga pribadong sektor. At ito nga po ay patunay na or pinapatunayan ng cost-benefit analysis kung saan sinabi po talaga ni Acting Secretary Karl Chua na bilyun-bilyon ang nawawala sa ating ekonomiya kada araw ng ECQ. Pero wala po tayong opsyon kung hindi magdeklara ng ECQ kasi punung-puno na nga po ang mga ospital natin ‘no.

So alam po ng lahat sa IATF iyong halaga ng pagsasarado. Alam po natin na mas marami ang nagugutom; alam po natin na 2.1 billion ang nawawala sa NCR Plus kada araw po ng MECQ iyan ha, so mas malaki po ang nawawala kapag ECQ. Pero iyon nga po, kinakailangan nating paghandaan na alagaan iyong mga magkakasakit ng seryoso at kritikal.

HANNAH SANCHO/SMNI:  Pero hindi naman natin isinasantabi iyong private sector, Sir, tuwing nagdi-decide po tayo na magkakaroon tayo ng ECQ, sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Hindi po. Naku, napakaselan po ng desisyon na ito. Sabi nga po ni Secretary Chua, ang ating goal is to achieve total health, hindi lang po na hindi madapuan ng COVID kung hindi kinakailangan maiwasan din ang pagkagutom.

HANNAH SANCHO/SMNI:   Sir, ano po ang response po natin kay Senator Lacson? Sinabi po niya sa kaniyang pahayag na iyong, the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be an auto-pilot with no one in charge. He also said that the coronavirus has gone berserk, Sir?

SEC. ROQUE: Ay, nasagot ko na po iyan kanina ‘no. Emergency medicine according to Dr. Herbosa, ang importante ay ibigay ang mga pangangailangan ng bansa at iyong pagpapalit ng liderato ay puwede po iyan isantabi. At I emphasize po ‘no, walang isang tao po na responsable dito sa COVID response; it’s an entire government approach.

HANNAH SANCHO/SMNI:   Thank you, Sir. Sir, last question for Usec. Vergeire po. Usec. Vergeire, iyong Lung Center of the Philippines, hindi na po sila tumatanggap ng COVID-19 patients. Paano po natin ia-address, Doc, na for how long po sila hindi makakatanggap ng mga COVID-19 patients po?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Well, right now, as we have mentioned a while ago in my presentation, there are interim measures and immediate measures that we are going to employ. The very first one would be for us to be able to extract mild and asymptomatic patients from our hospitals so that we can further decongest.

And looking at the census of our hospitals, we have about almost 400 plus mild and asymptomatic cases now currently admitted in the different government hospitals. So we analyze, if we can extract them, put them in facilities which are also where they can be comfortable and they will be managed as well by medical practitioners, we will be able to free-up the space in our hospitals.

So our hospitals may temporarily not be able to admit patients with COVID because they are full, but as soon as they can discharge some of their patients through this Oplan Kalinga and also maybe the patient have recovered already, they would soon admit again patients.

HANNAH SANCHO/SMNI:   How soon po ito? Like, for a few days lang po ba hindi sila puwedeng tumanggap?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Well, if we can be able to set up this system that we have said, this immediate measure of transferring patients from the hospital to the isolation facilities within this week, and then we can be able to decongest. Second would be, if they would have patients who are already recovering and they can be able to be transferred or discharged already to be sent home, then they can open up already. A patient usually remains in a hospital if they are COVID positive and they have severe symptoms, usually they stay in the hospital for 14 to 21 days. But if they have mild or they are asymptomatic and they are just being monitored, it will just take about six to seven days.

HANNAH SANCHO/SMNI:   Last question po. Would you think by April 11 po, iyong capacity ng mga hospitals natin handling COVID cases po ay luluwag na po ba bago matapos itong extension ng ECQ?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: We are very much hopeful. That is the hope. That is our objective and that should be something that should be done so that we can be able to manage more patients and we can be able to transfer those patients who are not really requiring hospitalization. So that is the hope, and hopefully before that time we are able to set up the immediate measures already, so that we can see the further decongestion of our hospitals.

HANNAH SANCHO/SMNI:   Thank you very much. Thank you, Secretary.

SEC. ROQUE: Okay. Usec. Rocky, wala na po tayong tanong? I’m sorry to say that we cannot prolong this press briefing. So if I may just call on Joseph Morong, please, and then iyong ibang mga tanong ay ipadala na lang sa atin for answers. Yes, Joseph Morong please. Go ahead, please.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA 7: Hi, sir! Good afternoon to your guests. Secretary Guevarra, how are you doing? Dr. Rabi and Usec. Vergeire. Can I go first to Usec. Vergeire, please?

SEC. ROQUE: Go ahead, please.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Ma’am, I just have a couple of questions. I was going to ask you about the strategy of the government but then I saw and I listened kanina na… tama po ba iyong basa ko? Ang immediate na gagawin natin ngayon is to decongest the hospitals and strengthen iyong contact tracing and the isolation. Are those the two immediate things that we are going to do under the ECQ and are those things available to meet iyon pong parameters that you mentioned earlier doon sa sagot ninyo po kay Triciah? And just to manage expectation, ma’am, from ECQ ang next step po natin will be MECQ not GCQ?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Yes, Joseph. First, yes, ito po iyong mga pangunahing dapat nating gawin. Immediate measures, unang-una, to further decongest the hospitals ‘no, iyan ‘yung pinakaimportante sa atin ngayon.

Pangalawa, for us to address the number of cases, we have to do this immediate isolation, immediate tracing, immediate testing and immediate isolation of the individuals who are affected or had been exposed to this virus. So by doing that, we can see and we can help in the response by reducing the number of cases and improving on the healthcare system.

So the second question would be, our experts have recommended that the shift to this community quarantine classification should be gradual. So it should not jump from ECQ and then to GCQ. We should do it gradually based on the assessment that we will do per week based on the IATF agreement.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: And we’re able to meet the parameters, ma’am, by next week after April 11, MECQ tayo probably?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: That will be the hope and that is the objective why we are doing all of these measures for this week.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Ma’am, can I stay with you for a little while? Ma’am, kasi kanina po sa presentation ninyo and then sa DOH briefing you mentioned that iyon pong effect ng ECQ can be felt in terms of the number of cases 10 days after the ECQ and in terms of healthcare utilization, 2 to 3 weeks or 3 to 4 weeks. Would you rather, ma’am, na we stay in ECQ and achieve this first, the lowering of number of cases and decongesting our HCU before natin i-release iyong NCR sa lower community quarantine?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Well as I’ve said, it will be based on the assessment. And as we have said a while ago, we won’t see the changes ‘no from this ECQ strategy until about 10 days after based on the last experience that we’ve had. But we also have some indicators already that we can use in order for us to determine if we can continue on this kind of restrictions or we can lift it and that would be the management of our healthcare system.

So sabi natin kapag nakita natin iyong ICU beds natin na-decongest natin kahit papaano, nakakapag-accept na tayo uli nang mas maayos sa ating mga ospital and also, we have seen that the LGUs have intensified their PDITR like contact tracing within 24 hours, isolating them within 24 hours, and then that’s the time ‘no that we can use that as a basis notwithstanding the number of cases and as I’ve said the healthcare utilization rate that we want to reduce by as much as 60%.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Okay. Ma’am, noon pong February we started to note iyong mga new variants ‘no. In our assessment in hindsight ma’am, were we not quick enough to identify those new variants and contain them so that we would be able to avoid this present situation na kalat na sila?

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Well, in my opinion, we have been able ‘no to detect early on that’s why we were able to close our borders before reaching January of 2020. If you will remember, December we closed our borders to these countries where we have identified UK variants. And we were able to do this surveillance system where we were able to trace individuals with variants from CAR and the other areas and we were able to setup or do restrictions for us to be able to contain the spread.

Unfortunately, it is not really just that factor. We need to look at the behavior also of people; we also need to look at the compliance to protocols. So with all of these factors combining, we have seen that the variants have spread this much ‘no and here in NCR it has, you know, we have porous borders across cities and that is also a contributing factor that’s why the variants have spread this much.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: All right. Ma’am, thank you for your time. Can I go to Dr. Rabi [garbled] ma’am? Dr. Rabi, good afternoon sir. Sir can I get an update sir on the AstraZeneca vaccine ‘cause it was scheduled on March 24 to 26, 979 doses. What happened to those? Do we have an update on whether this will be delivered at all to the Philippines?

DR. ABEYASINGHE: Yes. Thank you for the question, Joseph. It is an important question which I alluded to because of the global vaccine shortage, there will be a delay. The agreed quantity which was 920,000 vaccine doses will come but because of the shortage, what we have been informed is that we may need to expect the reduced quantity which may come over the next few weeks.

But eventually as production peaks up, we will deliver on the 20% stock, 20% of vaccines to cover 20% of the population. So this is the agreement that the COVAX has with the Philippine government and we are still committed to do that. We believe that when production peaks up in the late second quarter to fourth quarter, we will be able to deliver.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: All right. Sir, thank you for your time. Secretary Roque, just quick question—

SEC. ROQUE: That’s 4 questions already.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: Sir [overlapping voices] from Dr. Vergeire. Next week, can we expect MECQ?

SEC. ROQUE: It depends on whether or not our objectives are met as far as PDITR is concerned and as far as hospital care utilization. Okay? Thank you very much, Joseph.

JOSEPH MORONG/GMA7: One lang. Ba’t wala pong—sorry, curiosity lang. Ba’t wala pong Talk to the Nation Address si Presidente tonight? Does he have a schedule, a Cabinet meeting or something?

SEC. ROQUE: Wala po ‘no. But normally naman po iyan, Mondays or Wednesdays and Wednesday is what appears in my calendar. Okay, thank you very much Joseph.

DOJ SEC. GUEVARRA: Sec. Harry, I just want to thank iyong mga kasama ko sa Review Committee sa water concessions more specifically si ES Medialdea of the Office of the President, si Secretary Dominguez of the DOF, Chief State Counsel George Ortha of the Department of Justice, Solicitor General Joe Calida and Justice Elpidio Vega of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and their Undersecretaries and most specially Presidential Adviser on Flagship Projects Vince Dizon who facilitated all of these discussions.

Thank you, Sec. Harry.

SEC. ROQUE: Sec., on my part naman po I will ask for the President’s guidance because natalaga po ako dati na magsampa ng kaso, I will find out what the next order of the President is now that there is already a Revised Concession Agreement.

Now Usec. Rocky, mayroon pa bang tatlong last questions? Puwede bang pakibasa na iyong tatlo para sagutin na lahat iyong tatlong questions. Go ahead, please.

USEC. IGNACIO: Okay, Secretary. Pero iyong mga tanong po ni Ian Cruz, Dano Tingcungco ay halos pareho din po. Tanong po ni Cedric Castillo: Any update daw po for Usec. Vergeire alleged P1,000 per hour na rent sa tent ng isang ospital para sa COVID patients? Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite says isa-submit niya sa House Committee on Health ang pangalan ng hospital. Iniimbestigahan na po ba ng DOH ito?

SEC. ROQUE: And the last question please, para wala na tayong tanong, para maubos ang tanong.

USEC. IGNACIO: Tanong po ni Raul Dancel of Straits Times: Do you our ongoing word war with China over Julian Felipe Reef jeopardizing future vaccine shipment for Sinovac and Sinopharm?

SEC. ROQUE: Okay. Usec. Vergeire, iyong P1,000 daw po per hour.

DOH USEC. VERGEIRE: Yes, sir. The case is being investigated by our Hospital Oversight Board and we will provide information as soon as they already have results.

SEC. ROQUE: Doon naman po sa huling tanong ay wala naman pong word war ‘no. Malinaw po ang sinasabi ni Presidente, mayroon po tayong malapit na pagkakaibigan. Hindi po dahilan itong mga fishing vessels para tayo po ay magkagiyera and we will resolve this peacefully.

Okay. Dahil wala na po tayong tanong, maraming salamat po sa ating mga naging panauhin – si Secretary Menard Guevarra; si Dr. Rabi ng WHO, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe; at siyempre po si DOH Usec. Rosario Vergeire. Maraming salamat din po kay Usec. Rocky at maraming salamat sa lahat ng ating mga kasama dito sa Malacañang Press Corps.

At dahil kahapon po ay Pasko ng Pagkabuhay, sa ngalan po ng inyong Presidente, ito po ang Spox Harry Roque na nag-iiwan po ng mga lyrics sa ating paboritong kanta na kinakanta sa ating simbahan: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future and life is worth living just because He lives.

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

 

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SOURCE: PCOO-NIB (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)