Palace defends tasking Cabinet officials to oversee local COVID-19 response

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2020 04:24 PM

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during the launch of C.O.D.E. or the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic organized by the government’s COVID-19 response team and the provincial government of Rizal at the Ynares Center, Ynares Compound, Antipolo City on August 12, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Malacañang defended Friday assigning Cabinet officials to oversee the coronavirus response in urban hubs and provinces with high virus figures, saying it was meant to "harmonize" the government's strategy.

The government's Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on pandemic response approved on Wednesday assigning Cabinet secretaries to select local government units with high community transmission of the virus to "provide stronger support." 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the move is meant to ensure close coordination between the national government and the local government on responding to the pandemic.

"We have to ensure that the operational aspect of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19 will be properly implemented down to the barangays," Roque said.

While the government understands the call of some sectors to tap public health officials as overseers, the Palace mouthpiece said it was only "one part of the whole-of-government approach."

COVID-19 policy chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr on Thursday said Cabinet officials are meant to act as "big brothers and sisters" to local government officials.

"Yung kanilang expertise ay puwede maipahayag sa ating mayors at puwede sila gumabay bilang big brother ng ating mayors," Galvez said.

(Their expertise can be shared with our mayors and they can serve as a big brother.)

Cabinet officials were assigned in areas deemed to have high transmission of the virus namely parts of Metro Manila, and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

The officials are tasked to monitor health system performance, critical care capacity, and compliance to COVID-19 response protocols set by the national government in their respective assignments.