Hontiveros offers alternative 'health-heavy' plan vs COVID-19

    MANILA, Philippines – "Any lockdown is not effective on its own. Kailangang may kasamang malakas na health response."

    This was the remark of Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday as she presented a more 'humane, inclusive and health-centric' plan to mitigate the pandemic and address the concerns of health workers, as novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19 cases surged past 100,000 this week and as Metro Manila and other 'hotspot' areas revert back to a modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ.

    Hontiveros offers alternative 'health-heavy' plan vs COVID-19
    As Metro Manila reverts back to MECQ, senator says government should adopt a clearer strategy.

    "It is clear that the government botched the previous months of the lockdown. Huwag natin hayaang masayang ulit ang dalawang linggong pagbabalik-MECQ," Hontiveros said. "Susunod ang mga Pilipino. Siguraduhin lang nating may maayos na plano," she added.

    In her privilege speech, the senator shared a "roadmap to recovery, a comprehensive package of recommendations for much-needed health and economic programs to save lives, prevent the country's healthcare system from being overwhelmed, and restore jobs and businesses lost due to the pandemic."

    Intensified health solutions

    "Imbes na militarismong tugon sa pandemya, mas kailangan ang medikal at makataong mga solusyon", Hontiveros said of her six-point package of recommendations to improve the country's healthcare response to the pandemic which includes the following:

    1. Improve preemptive/preventive response - Activate epidemiology and surveillance units (ESUs) in local government units as required by law to improve monitoring and detection of cases, alongside expanded telemedicine and e-prescription programs to serve patients with non-COVID cases;

    2. Genuine Mass Testing - Expand testing for COVID-19 cases faster and make it faster and more easily available to high-risk and densely populated communities. Tap local biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to rapidly improve testing capacity in every region;

    3. Strengthen health system and infrastructure - Prioritize efforts to protect and expand the ranks of frontliners. Establish 'hospital command centers' for better coordination among health facilities, and designate COVID-19 hospitals for critically-ill patients. Upgrade quarantine centers as 'mega-treatment' centers, and ensure capacity of health facilities in provinces;

    4. Increase protection for vulnerable populations - Provide better access to testing and treatment to those most vulnerable to COVID-19 such as the elderly, pregnant women, and poor families. Likewise, health protections for workers must be improved;

    5. Expand universal healthcare - Use mechanisms and programs in the existing Universal Healthcare Act to address pressing healthcare needs of Filipinos during pandemic, such as improving the process of designating licensed primary care providers who will serve patients at free/affordable rates; and

    6. Greater transparency and accountability - Government spending on COVID-19 response should be subjected to audit and made more transparent. Mechanisms like the 'Citizen's Budget Tracker' should be harnessed. Corruption and incompetence by government officials should not be tolerated, and must be met with appropriate legal and administrative action.

    "Hindi na bago ang mga panawagang ito - these were our calls since Day 1 of the lockdown. We will continue to revert to a stricter lockdown unless the government adopts a more definite health strategy," Hontiveros urged.

    Expansion and extension of SAP

    Hontiveros also offered a four-point plan for economic recovery and restoration of the millions of jobs and businesses lost during the pandemic.

    Particularly, she pushed for the expansion and extension of the government social amelioration program or SAP to assist struggling households such as lower middle-class to poor families, solo parents and jeepney drivers.

    "Ngayong bumalik tayo sa mas striktong lockdown, kailangan ng ayuda sa lahat ng maaapektuhan, lalung-lalo na ang mga mawawalan pa ng trabaho at kita dahil sa dalawang linggong MECQ," she said. "We cannot heal as one pag may napag-iiwanan. We cannot heal as one pag may nakakalimutan," Hontiveros also said.

    Her other recommendations for economic recovery also include:

    1. passage of the Balik-Trabahong Ligtas Bill that seeks to upgrade workplace protection for workers during the pandemic, including financial coverage for testing and treatment if they contract COVID-19;

    2. assistance to micro and small enterprises to repair the economy; and

    3. promotion of new drivers of economic growth such as information and communications technology (ICT), digital education, telemedicine, logistics and public services, agriculture, food manufacturing and urban-rural transport networks.

    "Kaya ng mga Pilipinong magtiis ngunit dapat kaya ng pamahalaang mamahala," Hontiveros said. "This is the strategy our people need and deserve. Hindi istratehiya ang pag-aantay lamang ng bakuna mula sa Tsina," she concluded.

    — The Summit Express
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