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Senate inquiry on COVID-19 efforts put off; ‘super busy’ officials asked for deferment

/ 07:55 PM May 07, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has deferred its committee of the whole inquiry on updates about the government’s COVID-19 response after the executive department requested for a postponement.

The committee of the whole hearing was initially scheduled on May 11 but was pushed back to May 18, according to the notice of hearing sent to reporters on Thursday.

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According to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called Senate President Vicente Sotto III to inform him that officials of the government’s COVID-19 task force and department heads will be busy over the weekend preparing the reports to be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The IATF (Inter-agency Task Force) and most of the heads are super busy over this weekend preparing and giving reports asked by (President Duterte) because of the May 15 deadline,” Zubiri said in a text message.

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“He will make decisions and announcements daw on the 13th. So, they are asking us for a week to be able to prepare what the President needs,” he added.

Sotto, in a separate message, said he and his colleagues in the Senate “agreed to accept the request of the Palace.”

“The (executive) department requested a postponement because they will be very busy in the next few days to convene and present to the President the updates and reports for the President’s decision before the 15th,” he added.

Metro Manila and other areas deemed “high risk” for COVID-19 transmission remain under an enhanced community quarantine until May 15 while a general community quarantine has been imposed on moderate to low-risk provinces since May 1.

The committee of the whole is expected to tackle the status of the government’s social amelioration program, the country’s testing capacity, and the country’s economic stimulus plan.

To date, Philippine health officials have confirmed 10,343 cases of COVID-19 in the country. Of the number, 1,618 have so far recovered while 685 have died.

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