DOH: Pandemic response, other ops continue even without health chief

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DOH: Pandemic response, other ops continue even without health chief
Residents of San Juan City participated in this year's Wattah Wattah Festival on Friday, June 24, 2022. The Department of Health said Metro Manila may see up to 4,600 cases a day by mid-July due to increase mobility and waning compliance with protocols.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health said Monday that its senior career officials are leading pandemic response and other operations while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. decides on who to appoint to head the department.

Health Undersecretary Lilibeth David said that all services and activities of the DOH, including COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, other disease prevention and control, and health promotion matters are ongoing. The agency earlier said that "everything is status quo until new directives from our new president come in."

David also said the department is "eagerly" awaiting the announcement of the new secretary.

"We look forward to working with our new secretary on delivering services that promote the people’s health," she was quoted as saying during the agency’s first flag ceremony under the Marcos administration.

The following officials will lead the teams in the DOH:

  • Undersecretary David leads the Health Policy and Systems Development Team, and Health Facilities and Infrastructure Development Team, assisted by Assistant Secretary Kenneth Ronquillo
  • Undersecretary Abdulla Dumama heads the Field Implementation and Coordination Team, and Health Regulation Team, assisted by Assistant Secretary Charade Mercado-Grande and Assistant Secretary Roy Ferrer
  • Undersecretary Carolina Taino leads the Administration and Financial Management Team, and Procurement and Supply Chain Management Team, assisted by Assistant Secretary Maylene Beltran and Assistant Secretary Romeo Ong
  • Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire heads the Public Health Services Team and the Office of the Chief of Staff, assisted by Assistant Secretary Nestor Santiago

Still no health chief as cases rise

Five days into his term, Marcos, Jr. has yet to decide who will inherit the tasks of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing the challenges in the healthcare sector.

This comes as the Philippines sees an increase in COVID-19 cases driven by the presence of fast-spreading variants with immune escape characteristics, increased mobility, and waning vaccine immunity.

The Philippines logged 1,323 additional COVID-19 cases Sunday, the highest daily rise since February 24.

“The president is quite aware and in fact, one of the priorities is managing the effects of this pandemic. So you must also understand that this is so important. They must look very closely and carefully at the candidates,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a press briefing Monday.

The names of National Task Force against COVID-19 adviser Ted Herbosa and DOH Technical Advisory Group Edsel Salvana have been floated as possible replacements for Francisco Duque III, former President Rodrigo Duterte's health chief.

Cruz-Angeles also said there is no deadline set to complete Marcos’ Cabinet. Marcos also has yet to appoint the next heads of the environment, energy, and science departments.

"I understand [he] is going through the final evaluation stage. So I don’t think it will take too long," she said.

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