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Drilon says ‘shotgun approach’ messed up COVID-19 response

/ 11:09 PM August 06, 2020

The leader of the opposition at the Senate swung at the Duterte administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as a shotgun approach that failed in two things—protecting the livelihood of people and keeping coronavirus under control.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said officials in charge of pandemic response should step up efforts to revive the economy.

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Other senators said people lacked confidence in government efforts which contributed to difficulties in carrying out recovery programs.

“Nobody expected it to be this severe,” said Drilon.

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“This is the result of the ‘shotgun’ approach in handling COVID-19,” he said.

“This shows the grim reality: people are hungry, they have no jobs and money and their savings have been depleted,” Drilon said in a statement.

Drilon noted that Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier projected a gross domestic product (GDP) decline of around 5.7 to 6.7 percent in the second quarter, but the result was a 16.5 percent decline.

Given this development, Drilon said the government should undertake swift and decisive action to revive the demand side of the economy and to help the poor.

“We need to do a second round of social amelioration program,” said Drilon.

“We should expand it but we must retain those families who received the first tranche because they are the ones who are badly hit by the pandemic,” he said.

Beneficiaries who had been removed from lists after the first tranche should receive aid once more as their lives did not improve and because they continue to suffer from hunger, he said.

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“The government should provide for them until the pandemic is over,” he added.

He also said the government should increase the stimulus funds provided for under the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill.

The Senate version provided for a P140 billion fund, while the House of Representatives provided for a P162 billion stimulus fund.

Drilon said the government should rethink its strategies as the continued rise in COVID 19 cases, along with corruption allegations, are drowning people’s confidence.

“The people’s confidence is shattered and the corruption and incompetence issues against government officials playing a key role in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic make things even worse,” he said.

Reviving demand would happen only when people feel safe in going out, and for this to happen, they should see that the government is doing the right thing and has put effective measures in place, he said.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said the recession was expected, and said the government needed to prove that it can handle the pandemic.

If not, it would be difficult for people to return to work, said Recto.

“So far , the people, consumers, workers, investors think government is losing the battle,” said Recto, an administration ally.

“There is a lack of confidence. Hopefully, we can get our act together in the next two weeks,” he said.

Sen. Sonny Angara, chair of the finance committee, said all economies are in a recession because of the pandemic, and what is important is the government’s recovery strategy.

“Bayanihan 2 will help initially but many are commenting it should be followed by other economic actions,” he said.

“We in the Senate have shown our willingness to work with our economic managers to pursue a successful recovery strategy,” Angara said.

But the government should ensure that public funds are not lost to corruption, like the scandals now hounding the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he believed the country’s strong economic fundamentals could help get it through the pandemic until a vaccine for coronavirus becomes available.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the government should continue to provide cash assistance to low income families even if their areas are under looser quarantine measures to ensure people would not go hungry.

Gatchalian also called on the administration to fasttrack the distribution of the second tranche of cash assistance under the social amelioration program.

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