Researcher: Group's recommendations are for free, part of public service
Airline ground staff wearing protective gear work at the counter at the airport in Manila on August 4, 2020.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Researcher: Group's recommendations are for free, part of public service
Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - October 13, 2020 - 10:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — A member of the independent research group giving out recommendations to the government for its coronavirus response is hoping that they are not being silenced when the Palace urged them to relay their studies in private, adding that they are doing this without pay. 

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque at a briefing on Tuesday said the OCTA Research team should prevent publicizing their recommendations on quarantine classifications in the country to avoid confusion and preempting the government. 

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Final Word, professor Guido David said they have also been sending their reports directly to Malacanang and they are not paid to do their forecasts. 

"I would hope not, because we've been doing this as a public service," he said. "I'm not sure if people are aware but we're not actually commissioned for this, we're not paid by the government [nor] anyone."

The team, now composed of experts from the University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas, first began making recommendations in April at the early stages of the public health crisis in the country. 

Roque said he has requested for them to "desist" from making their recommendations public and would be better to turn them in privately to the IATF. 

The president's spokesman was responding to queries after OCTA urged government to revert the towns of Bauan in Batangas, Calbayog in Western Samar and General Trias in Cavite due to an increase in its daily attack rate. 

"I have requested for them to desist from making recommendations on classifications as it is really the job of experts," he said in mixed Filipino and English. "I understand they have one or two epidemiologists but it's still not the same number of experts working with the IATF."

David said he will still have to meet with the rest of the group on the Malacañang's plea, but he said they support the government's call to place certain areas under granular lockdowns instead of placing the entire city or province under strict quarantine. 

"We have been using science and that's the good thing about science: it's evidence-based," he said. "We will definitely still have some reports [but] I will still have to talk to the team."

Philippine coronavirus cases are now at 344,713 as the health department reported 1,990 new infections on Tuesday.

The country's total is currently the highest in Southeast Asia and is among the Top 20 in the world in terms of cases. 

Fatalities months since the pandemic hit are now at 6,372, with recoveries at 293,383. 

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