Philippines under state of calamity

MANILA. President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP)
MANILA. President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, March 16, placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity, allowing the national government and local government units to tap calamity and quick response funds in its bid to delay the epidemic peak of Covid-19.

The government’s 2020 calamity fund, or the budget allotted for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, amounts to P20 billion while the Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has P81 million from its QRF that may also be used to finance efforts to combat the disease.

The state of calamity declaration is contained in Proclamation 929, which also put Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine that took effect at 12 a.m. of March 17, 2020.

The state of calamity will last for six months, "unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.”

“All government agencies and LGUs are directed to render full assistance, cooperate with each other, and mobilize necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate disaster response aid and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of Covid-19,” Duterte’s latest proclamation states.

The President also ordered all law enforcement agencies, with the support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to undertake all necessary measures to ensure peace and order in affected areas, with the enhanced community quarantine imposed throughout Luzon from March 17 to April 12, 2020.

Critics earlier hit the military’s role in implementing the stricter quarantine measures and said the national government must focus on health-based solutions instead.

Proclamation 929, which Duterte signed on March 16, also directed the Executive Secretary, Health Secretary and all other concerned department heads to issue guidelines governing the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

The declaration of a state of calamity was proposed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which noted that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country continues to rise despite government interventions.

On March 17, the Department of Health (DOH) announced 45 new cases that brought the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country to 187.

Of the number, 12 patients had died, including the couple who was considered the first cases of local transmission.

The DOH earlier said it needed at least P3.1 billion to procure personal protective equipment and Covid-19 test kits as well as pay the additional Bureau of Quarantine personnel who will be hired.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier pledged to give P1 billion while the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) said it can contribute about P420 million.

Aside from P81 million from its QRF, the DOH said it also has over P500 million in savings that may be used in the efforts against Covid-19.

The House committee on appropriations has also approved a bill seeking to provide the DOH with a P1.6-billion supplemental budget. The bill has yet to be approved by the plenary and the Senate has yet to pass a similar bill.

Duterte earlier issued Proclamation 922, series of 2020, declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines due to Covid-19.

He also announced that the code alert system for Covid-19 was raised to Code Alert sub-level 2 based on the recommendation of the DOH and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. (LMY/JTM/MVI//SunStar Philippines)

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