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Robredo suspends OVP’s COVID-19 response programs

Pia Lee Brago - The Philippine Star
Robredo suspends OVPâs COVID-19 response programs
In this Oct. 7, 2022 photo, Vice President Leni Robredo announced that she is running for president in the 2022 elections.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has suspended the Office of the Vice President (OVP)’s initiatives against COVID-19 while awaiting the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on her request to allow her office to continue the programs during the campaign period.

Robredo, the lone female presidential aspirant, asked for an exemption from the Comelec to allow her COVID-19 programs, such as Bayanihan E-Konsulta, Vaccine Express, Swab Cab and medical assistance, to continue even after Feb. 8, the start of the official campaign period.

“We are waiting for the Comelec’s decision on the exemption that we are asking for. We had a hearing last week, and I myself attended it,” Robredo said in Filipino yesterday on BISErbisyong LENI program.

The last day of the programs, she said, was on Friday.

“There are many people asking help every day. If we stop, others will have nowhere to go. Hopefully, we could get an exemption,” she added.

The Vice President said she would not appear at the COVID-related activities if the Comelec would allow her office’s free COVID-19 antigen testing, teleconsultation, vaccination projects and medical assistance programs to continue.

In November, Robredo released a comprehensive plan to address the pandemic, which includes investments to the long-neglected public health system and major changes to the current COVID-19 response.

Food security

Meanwhile, Robredo’s running mate Sen. Francis Pangilinan’s “Byahe ni Kiko: Hello Pagkain, Goodbye Gutom” caravan hit the road yesterday, bringing to the fore the issue of food security for Filipinos in the May elections.

Pangilinan stressed that the issue of food must be on every candidate’s plate, and not be treated as a sidebar conversation because it affects over half of the country’s population.

“Food is an encompassing concern. It can be a hunger and poverty issue, an economic issue, an animal welfare issue, a labor issue, an environmental issue, a farming issue, a health issue, a trade issue,” he said.

Pangilinan, a farmer himself, said the elections should not solely focus on the candidates but on their agenda and the direction they intend to bring the country.

The Byahe ni Kiko van will take him to cities and provinces all over the country to meet and listen to various sectors, including farmers, fishers, students, micro and small entrepreneurs, professionals and workers.

The vice presidential aspirant said the voices of the sectors should be heeded as they would become an important component of the solution to their woes.

He said hunger has been drowned by more controversial issues, even as it is a critical concern.

Citing Unicef data, he said 95 children die every day due to hunger, and one of three kids suffers from stunted growth.

Pangilinan said neglect of the agriculture sector has left the country behind by its neighbors in terms of farm produce and development of the industry.

He lamented that despite having rich seas and land, the country resorts to importation, “which is riddled by corruption.”

He vowed to double the budget of the agriculture department if he and Robredo win in the elections.

He also committed to fully implement the Sagip Saka Law wherein farmers can sell their harvests to the government or the private sector, helping them find direct markets for their produce and increasing their income.

COMELEC

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