Duque told to 'fix priorities' after skipping House probe on 2019-nCoV

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2020 05:21 PM | Updated as of Feb 05 2020 06:14 PM

Health Secretary Francis Duque defends himself during a committee hearing on the preparedness on the reported outbreak of the novel corona virus held at the Senate of the Philippines, Feb. 4, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A lawmaker said Wednesday that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should "fix" his priorities, after the latter skipped a House inquiry into the government's response to a coronavirus outbreak from China. 

Duque told DZMM he was instead set to inspect a mega drug rehab facility in Fort Magsaysay that would be used to quarantine around 42 Filipinos repatriated from China's Hubei province, where the new strain of virus was first detected. 

“As the overall in-charge in handling this crisis, he should've been here — hindi 'yung taga-inspect na lang ng kwarto (not being a mere room inspector)," Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said during House Committee on Metro Manila Development's hearing. 

“Paki parating niyo ho kay Sec. Duque, ayusin niya ang kaniyang priorities (please tell Sec. Duque, he should fix his priorities)," he added. 

The lawmaker also questioned why there were still flights to China's Wuhan City, believed to the virus' epicenter, until Jan. 22. 

The imposition of travel restrictions is an international decision that involves various repercussions on labor and trade, Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Eric Domingo earlier said. 

The Philippines earlier this week banned travel to and from mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau as health experts seek to contain the fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus.

Before this, the quarantine bureau started screening airports and the epidemiology bureau went on alert, said Dr. Ruby Constantino of the health department's disease prevention and control bureau. 

Biazon said crisis managers should "shape up" to allay public fears. Manila 1st District Rep. Manny Lopez, who chairs the Metro Manila development committee, said Duque had "to work doubly hard." 

Duque's office did not immediately respond to ABS-CBN News' request for comment. 

Duque last week attended a plenary session where only 5 lawmakers asked questions about government response to the virus that as of Wednesday has killed nearly 500 and infected more than 24,000. 


- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News