President Rodrigo Duterte has signed on Monday morning an executive order declaring a state of public health emergency over the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Panelo said he would release a copy of the order during his regular press briefing in Malacañang at 12:30 p.m.
“Napirmahan na, ire-release na namin ‘yung executive order,” he said.
Panelo said under such declaration, the country can control prices of basic commodities and can purchase medical equipment without the requisite bidding process.
Senator Bong Go said over the weekend said that Duterte had agreed to declare a public health emergency after COVID-19 cases in the country rose to six.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the Department of Health had recommended the declaration of a state of public health emergency after it raised its alert to Code Red Sub-Level 1 when it confirmed the fifth COVID-19 patient was a case of local transmission.
The country now has 10 confirmed cases after the DOH announced four more on Sunday.
With this declaration, no one has the right to refuse to undergo quarantine during a state of public health emergency, a Department of Health (DOH) official said on Monday.
“‘Yung mga magre-resist hong mag-quarantine, wala na silang karapatang mag-resist ngayon,” DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in.
“May karampatang sanctions po kapagka ganito (nag-resist). Meron tayong mga protocols,” she added.
“Itong state of public health emergency would give the government more authority with regards to this procedure,” Vergeire said.
On Saturday, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said the department has recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the declaration of public health emergency as it raised Code Red Sub-Level 1 alert.
The hoisting of the alert status was made in light of the confirmation of the first case of “localized transmission” of COVID-19 in the country.
Samples from all the new confirmed cases were tested on March 7, and results were released on Sunday, March 8, the DOH said in a statement.
The four new cases are:
Patient 7: 38-year-old Taiwanese male with history of contact with Taiwanese who visited the Philippines and tested positive for COVID-19 in Taiwan;
Patient 8: 32-year-old Filipino male with history of travel to Japan;
Patient 9: 86-year-old American male with pre-existing hypertension and history of travel to USA and South Korea; and
Patient 10: 57-year-old Filipino male with no history of travel but reportedly had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
However, DOH is still investigating this matter.
Vergeire said all four new cases are admitted in private hospitals.
Under a state of public health emergency, the mobilization of resources will be easily facilitated, Vergeire said.
“(Ang state of public health emergency ay) para ma-facilitate ang mobilization ng additional resources para makapag-preposition tayo ng mas maraming logistics,” she said.
“Makakapag-expand tayo ng capacity para mas mapaghandaan natin ang ating sistema kung sakaling dumating tayo sa community transmission na tinatawag natin,” Vergeire said.
Also, with the state of public health emergency, the local government and other partners will be easily mobilized.
“Ang local government at other partners ay mobilized for this state of public health emergency,” Vergeire said.
“Panghuli, makakapag-heighten ng awareness ito sa ating mga kababayan,” she added.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday said a declaration of a public health emergency should not lead to skirting of regular procurement processes.
“Walang nakalagay sa batas na ipagtabi natin o balewalain natin ‘yung procurement laws. May bidding pa rin yan,” he said.
Vergeire clarified on Monday that bidding procedures will still be followed.
“Hindi po (isasantabi ang bidding), sir. Kahit naka-emergency kahit in the past, we still undergo bidding,” she said.
“Ang RA 11332, binibigyang authority ang Secretary of Health para mag-recommend ng mga ganito (public health emergency). We’ll still go through the usual process of procurement but this is facilitated,” Vergeire said.
The DOH official said a lot of supplies need to be bought to enhance the capabilities of laboratories and hospitals.
Drilon said under Republic Act 11332 or “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act” the Secretary of Health has the authority to declare an epidemic of national concern, like in the case of COVID-19./Stacy Ang