Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said the government must provide appropriate policies for its COVID-19 response.
Observing that many of the policies are “pre-pandemic,” Robredo said the government must review existing rules and guidelines and retrofit them based on the current situation to help businesses survive the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“To me, it must not be one-size-fits-all. Most of the time, we need to shift our existing policies. We have many policies that are still pre-pandemic. There are situations that have been taken into consideration. They have yet to take into account the situation right now,” she said.
As an example, she cited a new regulation by the Bureau of Internal Revenue to impose higher taxes on private schools from 10 percent to 25 percent, which is not timely since the education sector was among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
She said there are many opportunities in helping the people who have lost their jobs.
Meanwhile, National Task Force against COVID-19 spokesman Restituto Padilla said the agency opposed the scrapping of the mandatory requirement of wearing face shields on top of face masks, saying it's still too early to do so.
His statement came in response to an announcement from Palace spokesman Harry Roque last week that President Duterte's statement on requiring face shields only in hospitals is considered policy.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), however, recommended to the President that face shields continue to be mandatory in enclosed spaces.
Also on Sunday, Senator Panfilo Lacson called on the authorities to speed up the setting of standard quarantine protocols for vaccinated people to benefit not just returning Filipino workers from overseas, but also the economy.
"Please make it sooner, not later. Mind the economy for a change," he said.
He threw his support behind the National Task Force Against COVID-19's move to draw up standard quarantine protocols for Filipinos vaccinated here and abroad, saying economic recovery cannot afford to wait. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
Earlier, Lacson proposed a vaccine passport system that will make traveling to the Philippines easier for vaccinated people, especially for returning overseas Filipino workers and foreign investors.
He urged the IATF to fine-tune the protocols that will address these problems and make sure the protocols are in sync with those of other countries.
He also rallied behind the Department of Health's reported recommendation to scrap the COVID-19 testing requirement for inbound Filipinos who were fully vaccinated abroad, though this is still under study.
On the other hand, Lacson pushed for fiscal discipline for economic recovery, which may entail a "barebones" national budget for at least the next three years, amid reports that Fitch Solutions sees the peso may weaken over the longer haul.
"We can’t go on borrowing while wasting money on corruption and incompetence. 'Barebones' implies not sacrificing essentials including the budget for economic recovery. It also includes fiscal discipline," he said.
In other developments:
* The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Sunday said police front-liners will continue to strictly enforce health protocols to prevent the spread of more transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant. PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar made this assurance after the Department of Health (DOH) warned that patients infected with Delta variant are more prone to stay longer in hospitals compared to those who contracted the other variants. The World Health Organization also warned that the Delta variant is becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease.
* The DOH cited the need for uniform border controls as the authorities sought to keep away the more transmissible Delta variant first detected in virus-ravaged India. Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a press briefing, said this method worked in detecting 13 COVID-positive Filipino seafarers who had caught the variant. “What's important is our border control. We need them uniformly implemented across the regions and we also have to implement recommendations based on the advice of our experts,” Vergeire said in Filipino.
* The Department of Justice on Sunday warned local government officials to strictly enforce social distancing and other health protocols against COVID-19 in various vaccination sites. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said city government officials, barangay officials or those in charge of the vaccination activity may be held administratively liable if they are remiss in their obligation to strictly enforce health and safety protocols. Guevarra made the statement when asked on whether the IATF would probe the reported complaints of overcrowded vaccination sites in Manila, which has set a “first come, first served” policy for inoculation. Despite its limited vaccines, the Manila city government has also allowed walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations for those in the A4 category, including those who do not reside in the city.