MANILA - Malacañang on Friday refused to accept that the Philippines has overtaken Indonesia in the number of coronavirus infections, claiming that the numbers are a result of Manila's more aggressive testing than Jakarta.
The Philippines' COVID-19 tally of 119,460 cases as of Thursday topped Indonesia's 118,753, making it the Southeast Asian nation with the highest number of infections despite imposing one of the longest lockdowns in the world.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the numbers were a product of the Philippines' supposed "aggresive" testing as he noted that Indonesia has only reached a third of Manila's testing output so far.
"Dahil mas maigting ang ating pagte-test, hindi po totoo na mas maraming kaso tayo kaysa Indonesia," Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
(Because we are more aggressive in testing, it's not true that we have more cases than Indonesia.)
"Hindi lang nalalaman ng mga Indonesian kung sino-sino yung mga umiikot na mayroong sakit. At least tayo po, alam na natin kung sino na po sila," he added.
(It's just that Indonesians don't know yet who among them are roaming with the virus. At least, for us, we already know.)
But Indonesia, which has more than twice the population of the Philippines, has 37,587 active COVID-19 cases - still fewer than the latter's 50,473 active infections.
Pressed on his basis for claiming that it was wrong to say that the Philippines has more cases than Indonesia, Roque responded: "Hindi ko po alam how to answer that, basta ang malinaw lang po sa akin ang Indonesia, with more or less the same cases as us, has 1/3 of the actual testing we have conducted on our people."
(I don't know how to answer that but what is clear to me is that Indonesia, with more or less the same [number of] cases as us, has 1/3 of the actual testing we have conducted on our people.)
"Hindi naman talaga totoo at conclusive na mas marami na tayong kaso dito sa Pilipinas compared to Indonesia. Mas marami lang tayong kaso na nalalaman na dito sa Pilipinas dahil nga po three times ang ating testing more compared to the testing done by Indonesia," he added.
(It's not true and conclusive that we have more cases in the Philippines compared to Indonesia. We only know more cases because we test thrice as many as Indonesia.)
Earlier, the Department of Health called for caution in comparing the Philippines' coronavirus tally with other countries, saying the Duterte government was "continuously strengthening our efforts" to manage the cases.
"We have to be very cautious when we try to compare our numbers with other countries," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday.
The Philippines reverted Metro Manila and nearby economic hubs to a stricter lockdown until Aug. 18 as it recalibrated its pandemic response following the plea of exhausted health workers for a "time out."
Cases had surged when the quarantine level was eased in June.