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Curbing COVID, pushing for good governance: Robredo gives preview of presidency

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Curbing COVID, pushing for good governance: Robredo gives preview of presidency
Vice President Leni Robredo waves at supporters who gathered outside the Philippine International Convention Center in time for the filing of her candidacy for president before the Commission on Elections on October 7, 2021.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo gave a snapshot of what Filipinos can expect from her administration should she be elected president in the high-stakes elections next year that would determine the next leaders of a pandemic-battered Philippines.

Robredo said Thursday that the first order of business of her administration would be to get COVID-19 infections under control so that the country’s economy can fully reopen and jobs can be restored.

"Time and again, I have said that health is the front-end domino. We address it and the rest of the challenges become less daunting," she said during a membership meeting of the Rotary Club of Manila.

She said that in the first 100 days of her administration, she will focus on testing and tracing for COVID-19, treating patients with the disease, and vaccinating against it. She added that her administration will empower the healthcare system and take better care of frontline medical workers.

She also said that her administration will work to dramatically decrease COVID-19 infections by allocating more funds for healthcare services and facilities, the pandemic response and social services.

“We must realign the national budget so that it will be more akin to addressing the pandemic,” Robredo said.

Under the Duterte administration’s original budget proposal for 2022, funding for the Department of Health’s COVID-19 response was slashed by 73% to P19.68 billion from P73.99 billion.

A P45-billion budget for coronavirus vaccines is present in the spending plan, but this is lodged under unprogrammed funds, which can only be tapped if there is a surplus in government revenues or if there are proceeds from foreign loans.

The House of Representatives’ appropriations committee has tweaked the Duterte administration’s proposed budget and allocated P20 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots.

Good governance

Robredo said a cornerstone of her administration would be good governance, which she believes will pave the way to a "better Philippines."

"I will be giving a lot of effort into fixing the bureaucracy and strengthening the institutions," she said, remarking that institutions were weakened in the last five and a half years. 

"In a sense, it’s like 1986 that there are a lot of institutions that should be fixed," she said, referencing the final year of the Marcos dictatorship before it was ousted through a popular uprising known as the People Power Revolution.

As for foreign policy, Robredo said she will pursue an "inclusive and independent" one, which would not heavily favor specific countries.

She said that she will collaborate with China in areas where the Philippines has no conflict with it, like trade and investments. 

"But when it comes to the West Philippine Sea, we cannot deal with them without their recognition of the arbitral ruling," she said, referring to the Philippines' 2016 win before an arbitral tribunal which scrapped China’s claim over virtually the entire South China Sea.

Robredo said she wants to continue strengthening ties with the United States, one of the Philippines’ oldest allies and its former colonizer, but would want to focus on fostering better relations to protect Filipinos, boost trade, improve military and intelligence capabilities, and protect the West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, the vice president vowed to extend funding support to the agriculture sector, which she said will definitely be one of the top priorities of a prospective Robredo administration.

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