Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Saturday, March 7, said that he will recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency following the confirmation of the Department of Health (DOH) of the first case of local transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

This recommendation of Go as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography is also in line with the recommendation of DOH.

“Sa pagkakaalam ko meron nang confirmed local transmission. Yung kahapon, it was a local case. Ngayon po yung asawa naman ang naapektuhan, so mayroon na tayong local transmission,” he said during an interview after the 22nd Founding Anniversary Celebration of the Island Garden City of Samal which he attended.

“I will recommend to the President that he may opt to declare a State of Public Emergency para maging one step ahead at proactive tayo. ‘Wag nating hintayin na mas kumalat pa po ito. We will tap all national and local government agencies,” Go added.

Go said that the declaration facilitates immediate access to funding to respond to the issue, particularly for the LGUs. “Under Republic Act (RA) 10121, such declaration allows the LGUs to utilize their local disaster risk reduction management funds,” he said.

“The declaration eases processes on procurement, mandatory reporting, mandatory quarantine and travel restrictions, among others,” Go added.

If the President pushes through with the declaration, it will also serve as basis for possible price freeze under RA 7581 or the Price Act, according to the Senator.

Go also urged all citizens, residents, tourists and establishment owners to act within the bounds of the law and to comply with the lawful directives and advisories to be issued to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

The Senator added that he will also recommend to the President the creation of a crisis committee through an expansion of the membership of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to include other instrumentalities of the government, including LGUs, to fight the possible disease spread more effectively.

“We need a whole-of-society and proactive approach in preventing further spread of the virus,” Go said citing that this is consistent with DOH’s pronouncement raising the alert level to ‘Red-SubLevel 1’ given the confirmation of the first case of local transmission.

“Dapat maging one step ahead tayo. Lagi dapat tayo handa. At huwag tayo magpanic,” he reiterated.

Go also said that based on his discussions, President Duterte will hold a meeting with health officials and other concerned agencies, including members of the Inter-Agency Task Force as soon as possible.

“All government agencies and LGUs are enjoined to render full assistance and cooperation and mobilize necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate response and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate COVID-19 threat,” he added.

Go urged the public to remain calm, not panic, and cooperate with the government by assuring them that the Duterte Administration aims to always be one step ahead and is prepared in preventing the further spread of the disease.

“Si Pangulo, one step ahead din mag-isip ‘yan. Gusto niya handa tayo. Para mapakalma rin po ang kapwa natin Pilipino at huwag mag-panic. Makinig tayo sa mga health officials,” he said.

For his part, Go said that he will monitor the efforts undertaken by health authorities to ensure that they are doing their job well.

“Ako naman po, bilang Committee on Health chair, sisiguraduhin natin na nakatutok tayo. Tututukan ko at titingnan ko na ginagawa nila ng maayos ang kanilang trabaho,” he said.

Go also urged health officials to ensure that back-up systems are in place in public health facilities in case more patients will be confirmed infected. He also said that the government should heighten information dissemination campaigns to educate the public on what is happening, what should be done, and what measures are in place to protect the country.

“To Filipinos, do not panic and, instead, cooperate with the government in its efforts to address the situation through stronger and more proactive measures to prevent the further spread of the virus,” he said.

The Senator also advised those who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms to go to the nearest hospital and consult doctors to get proper medical attention and prevent the further spread of the disease. They may also seek assistance from the Malasakit Centers for their hospital bills.

Go, in previous statements, urged the public to also be responsible for their own health, observe proper hygiene and stay healthy. “If advised to undergo self-quarantine, please do so. Responsibilidad natin hindi lang ang ating sariling kalusugan pero para rin sa kaligtasan ng ating kapwa,” he stressed.

“Ito ang panahon na kailangang magtulungan tayo. Marami na tayong mga pagsubok na nalampasan. Mga sakuna at kalamidad na sumubok sa katatagan ng ating pagiging Pilipino. Naniniwala ako sa diwa ng bayanihan. Magmalasakit tayo sa ating kapwa,” he added.

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