Philippines

Senators back declaration of state of calamity amid Covid-19

Senators back declaration of state of calamity amid Covid-19
By Jose Cielito Reganit

MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – Three senators on Wednesday welcomed the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to place the country under a state of calamity, saying such move is necessary to allow both national and local governments to utilize their respective calamity and quick response funds (QRF) to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the Philippines.

Senator Grace Poe said the move would allow concerned agencies to quickly address shortages in critical items needed in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The decision is necessary to bolster sweeping relief and emergency efforts to contain the outbreak and at the same time ease the burden of our frontliners and ordinary citizens as we come to grips with this public health crisis,” Poe said in a statement.

“Sa panahong ito, kinakailangan natin ng mas malaking pondo hindi lamang para malabanan at maiwasan ang pagkalat ng sakit, kundi para mabigyan rin ng karampatang tulong ang ating mga kababayan (In these times, we need a bigger fund not only to fight and prevent the spread of the disease but also to provide the necessary assistance to our countrymen),” she said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said placing the entire country under a state of calamity is “timely and rational,” as he urged Filipinos to fully support the measure.

“The government, for all its disaster preparedness and response efforts, cannot overcome the threat by itself. We must all do our part, whether as workers rendering frontline services, scientists developing ways to deal with the problem, or responsible Filipinos giving support to them while showing understanding and cooperation with measures from the national government and local government units (LGUs),” he said in a separate statement.

“There is no doubt we will survive this, as we have done in so many crises before,” Lacson said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan echoed the sentiments of his colleagues, saying the declaration of a state of calamity “is necessary” to be able to release the PHP16-billion calamity fund of the national government as well as the use of calamity funds of LGUs.

Another PHP13 billion of the contingency fund can also be tapped, he said.

“Willing naman sumunod ang ating mga kababayan kung hindi sila nalilito at alam nila ano ang susundin na patakaran at alam din nila na may maliwanag na ayuda at alalay galing sa gobyerno sa harap ng kalamidad (Our countrymen are willing to heed the government as long as they are not confused and they know what regulations to obey, as well as they are assured of assistance from the government in the face of calamity,” Pangilinan said.

Poe and Pangilinan, however, urged the government to ensure proper allocation and transparency in the use of the funds.

They said priority should be given to the much-needed equipment of hospitals to serve the growing number of infected patients, the protective gear and food of healthcare workers and other frontliners, and the procurement of test kits.

On the other hand, Lacson said he cannot imagine that concerned local government officials in charge of dispensing those funds “can still have gall and malevolent intention of stealing the monies under their control.”

President Duterte declared a state of calamity in the country for the next six months amid the sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

The calamity declaration was issued through Proclamation No. 929 signed by the President last March 16 but released by the Palace on Tuesday.

The same proclamation also formally imposed the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon that will last until April 12, “unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.”

The quarantine calls for strict home quarantine, suspension of public transportation, travel restrictions, and work-from-home arrangements. (PNA)

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