President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is “in control” of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines, Malacañang said on Monday.
This, after a lot of criticism of the government’s response was received.
The Duterte government took the right steps in addressing the pandemic that has claimed over 1,000 lives in the country, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing.
“Tama ba ang mga hakbang na ginawa ng ating gobyerno? Ang sagot po namin – opo (Did the government take the right steps? Yes.),” he said.
“Hindi po tayo perpekto, siguro po talaga we could have done better. Pero narito na po tayo and one thing I can assure you, the President did the very best that he can and we are in control of the situation (We’re not perfect, maybe we could have done better.),” Roque said.
Opposition leader Vice President Leni Robredo criticized last week the government’s handling of the crisis, saying the Philippines failed to “act urgently” at the start of the pandemic and was still “catching up” with the response of other countries despite imposing one of the longest lockdowns in the world.
Roque however said the country was able to avoid more than three million infections because it supposedly took the right steps to address the pandemic.
“Naiwasan po ang 3.6 million cases ng COVID. Ang ating ginagawa po ngayon ay sinisiguro natin na habang wala pa pong bakuna eh mapapabagal natin iyong pagkalat ng sakit dahil kinakailangan eh bigyan natin ng medical assistance ang ating mga kababayan kapag sila po ay nagkasakit (We avoided 3.6 million infections. What we’re doing now is we’re making sure that while there is no vaccine yet, we can slow the transmission of the virus because of our critical care capacity.),” he said.
As of June 28, the Philippines has confirmed 35,455 COVID-19 cases.
This includes 1,244 deaths and 9,686 recoveries.
Prevailing community quarantine measures are set to expire on Tuesday, the same day that President Duterte is expected to announce fresh virus restrictions.
Experts earlier lamented what it said was the government’s “militaristic approach” in response to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Malacañang on Monday disputed the observation of the World Health Organization (WHO) that the Philippines has the fastest-growing number of new COVID-19 infections among over 20 countries and territories in Western Pacific region.
“We beg to disagree,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing.
Roque claimed that the Philippines only ranked sixth in the Western Pacific region “if we are [going] to divide the number of cases on a per million population basis.” He said India topped the list followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Singapore.
Social media users were quick to point out that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia do not belong to the Western Pacific region. According to the WHO, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia are part of the WHO South-East Asia region while Pakistan is classified under the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region.
Roque’s presentation also highlighted the total number of cases in some Asian countries instead of new infections to refute WHO’s observation.
“If you look at the WHO, I think we checked this and in the data of the WHO they are classified as Western Pacific countries,” Roque said, adding India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are still Asian countries.
From June 16 to 28, WHO said the total number of new cases in the Philippines was recorded at 9,655, followed by Singapore with 2,610 new cases.
Based on the confirmed cases by date of report within the last 30 days, Philippine cases stood out on WHO’s data.
Also, based on the data showing the total confirmed cases of countries plotted against their doubling rate, the trend in the Philippines is actively rising near Singapore.
“Bakit tayo iku-kumpara sa Singapore eh ang Singapore limang milyon lang po ‘yan, isang siyudad lang po ‘yan, hindi pa siyudad ng Quezon City or Manila,” Roque said.
The Department of Health on Sunday said the Philippines should not be compared with other countries without considering factors such as population, living conditions, and health system capacity.
“Please take that into account when we do our analysis. Let us not cherry pick the countries we want to compare ourselves to,” the department said.
Deputy chief implementer of the national policy against COVID-19 Vince Dizon, meanwhile, said WHO’s data could be due to two things: the spike in COVID-19 cases in Central Visayas and the country’s increased testing capability in April and May.
For his part, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a member of the task force addressing the pandemic, said he believes the country is still doing okay in its measures in curbing the spread of the virus.
As of Sunday, the Philippines had 35,455 COVID-19 cases, with 9,686 recoveries and 1,244 deaths./Stacy Ang