Palace, Robredo swap barbs over COVID-19 response
Vice President Leni Robredo hit anew the government’s apparent “lack of system” in dealing with the pandemic during an online interview with broadcast journalist Howie Severino on Tuesday night.
Office of the Vice President/Released, file
Palace, Robredo swap barbs over COVID-19 response
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - September 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo and Malacañang continued to trade barbs over the Duterte administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic more than six months into the lockdown, one of the longest in the world.

Robredo hit anew the government’s apparent “lack of system” in dealing with the pandemic during an online interview with broadcast journalist Howie Severino on Tuesday night.

Malacañang, however, shrugged off yesterday Robredo’s remarks, saying she cannot be expected to say something positive about the administration as leader of the opposition.

Severino asked the opposition leader whether she has changed her position not to back calls for health chief Francisco Duque’s resignation despite the controversies hounding the health chief, who chairs the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“No. I haven’t changed my mind. Our problem is so much bigger than Secretary Duque. For me the problem really is the national government, which apparently has no system,” she said.

Some senators had asked Duque to resign for “failure of leadership, negligence and lack of foresight” in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers had also urged President Duterte to fire Duque amid allegations of massive corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), which he chairs.

Robredo maintained the country lacks a leader in responding to the pandemic.

“It seems that there is no cohesive plan… there’s no one leading. If you look at the work being done by the agencies, as if they were working in silos,” she said.

“Ideally, the President should be the one leading (the COVID-19 response). But if he doesn’t want that role or he is busy with other things, there is at least one person who will do it,” she said.

“For me, the failure is the system. It’s not just Secretary Duque. So, whether or not you remove Secretary Duque, if the system remains, the problems will persist,” she said.

She said the country needs a whole-of-government approach to be able to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

“It’s so frustrating when you don’t see any direction, when you see government officials contradict each other. And I think we see this during press conferences,” she said.?Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Robredo’s tirades against the administration are expected.?“She is entitled to her opinion. Of course, as the leader of the opposition, we don’t expect anything positive about this administration from her,” Roque told CNN Philippines. ?“We have accepted that, I think people have accepted that. She can say all the negative things about the administration, but people still support the President,” he added.

Nearly $9B for COVID-19 response

The Philippine government has secured nearly $9 billion in foreign financing to support its COVID-19 response efforts, the Department of Finance (DOF) reported yesterday.

According to latest data posted on the DOF’s website, the government has raised $8.96 billion in loans and grants from foreign lenders as of Sept. 14 to augment its COVID-19 funds.

The DOF said $8.33 billion came in the form of budgetary support financing from various multilateral institutions, of which $6.86 billion was already disbursed to the government.

About $3.3 billion of the budgetary support came from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

This was followed by the World Bank, which has so far extended program loans amounting to $1.2 billion.

Budgetary support from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) reached $750 million, while the Agence Française de Développement provided a total of $275.7 million.

About $458.95 million also came from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Aside from multilateral and bilateral partners, the government has also tapped the offshore commercial debt market to raise funds for its COVID-19 response efforts. Last April, the Philippines issued $2.35 billion in US dollar-denominated global bonds with maturities of 10 years and 25 years.

Meanwhile, the national government is tapping celebrity ambassadors and the private sector to boost its discipline campaign against COVID-19 amid the pandemic.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that the private sector and celebrities will help promote the BIDA ang May Disiplina: Solusyon sa COVID-19 national advocacy campaign.

The campaign encourages citizens to cultivate a practice of self-discipline in exercising minimum health protocols.

The interior and health departments signed a memorandum of agreement with the new ambassadors and partners for the campaign yesterday.

Among the ambassadors are actors Regine Tolentino, Alden Richards, Diether Ocampo, broadcasters Jiggy Manicad and Paolo Bediones. – Alexis Romero, Mary Grace Padin, Romina Cabrera

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