Press Release
April 24, 2020

CNN: The Source interview of Senator Win Gatchalian with Pinky Webb on ECQ extension

[start recording]

Q: Good morning Senator Win Gatchalian, welcome to The Source.

SEN WIN: Good morning Pinky, good morning to our listeners.

Q: Senator, do you think the President made the right decision? Do you support it?

SEN WIN: The President made the most conservative and the most cautious decision considering that we just started our mass testing capabilities. I was looking at the data last night and to date, we can only test about 3,000 patients per day and that's the capacity of our labs. Under the President's report also, the government intends to target 900,000 tests in the next three months and if you are targeting that amount of test, you need to conduct about 21,000 tests per day. So malayo pa tayo from the current capacity to the targeted capacity. That's only 14%. But having said that, we're winning the war. Looking at the graphs, we are slowly flattening the curve that's why we can see that the President also opened up some of the provinces for commerce. But I support the President's extension on NCR and some of the high-risk areas because we need to continue to boost our testing capabilities and in order to do that, we need time. Lifting it prematurely, our efforts might go to waste and I think this is the most conservative and the most prudent decision. And I support that.

Q: So tama rin po ang GCQ na may moderate at meron pong low-risk?

SEN WIN: Yes, hindi naman lahat ng probinsya ngayon may cases. Some of the provinces are actually doing very well in terms of containing the cases so doon sa mga probinsyang walang case at low-risk, pwede na silang mag negosyo and they can allow small and medium businesses to interact slowly and do business. These small businesses can thrive and make the local economy work, at least may income ang mga kababayan natin doon at hindi sila aasa sa ayuda ng gobyerno.

Q: In fact sabi ni Spokesperson Harry Roque, I think the President's decision is the second tranche of SAP, they may concentrate this on the public rather who form part of the ECQ and not the GCQ anymore.

SEN WIN: Correct and that's a good move because I was talking to some local governments yesterday through teleconference and those areas where we will extend the ECQ, for sure the local government will exhaust all their cash position. If you remember, this is only the first quarter so ang mga Negosyo hindi pa nag re-renew ng kanilang business permit. A lot of the local government extended the renewal of their business permit and the real property tax which is half of their revenue has not come in yet so meaning walang cash ang ating mga local government. The first 45 days, they've exhausted every single centavo of their cash so the extension will be a big problem for a lot of the local government units. There are two ways here; One, grant the local government unit additional COVID-19 IRA and number two, to expedite the giving out of the social amelioration program. As we speak, it' already delayed. Dapat nabigay yan two weeks before but nevertheless, with this extension and with the learnings in the first distribution, tingin ko bibilis na ito by next week or the next wave.

Q: And of course possibly the national ID system but that will have to be for later. I just wanted to ask you Sir frankly, are you concerned that we're really only testing 3,000? I know I spoke to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque a while ago and he said 10,000. But we researched as well, it was about 3,000 because 1,500 is coming from our RITM who downgraded or scaled down their testing rather because 43 of their health workers got sick. Dapat by Friday mag-resume na yan which is today, and then we have about 17 other testing centers, I'm asking this Sir because if we are to believe the numbers that 20,000 should be tested, we're quite far away but fortunately we have the Red Cross helping us out here?

SEN WIN: Very far Pinky, and it's really a concern for me. I'm not a doctor and I'm not an epidemiologist but I'm looking at this and approaching this from a local governance standpoint. What does it take for local governments to open up their economy? The only thing we can do to slowly open up our economy is to locate the virus and the only thing we can do to locate the virus is to do testing. So the local governments can do testing, identify the carriers of the virus, isolate them and then treat them then we can actually slowly open up our local economy, like our small- and medium-sized businesses can operate. Small businesses can also contribute to the local economy such as the salons, the carwash, and the other small business but in order for them to operate you need to locate the virus first and testing is a very important intervention and a very important tool for the government to use in order to locate the virus. Medyo malayo pa tayo, that's why looking at that information and data, the President took a very conservative approach because he knows that without testing capabilities, even though we have the rapid testing, but without PCR-based testing which is the gold standard as recognized by WHO and DOH, without that capability it's very difficult to locate the covid carriers and in turn open up the economy.

Q: Really, Senator, basically what you are saying is test, isolate and then for those who okay to work they can start working. Basically, it's an approach that a lot of people have actually been talking about. So we hope Sir this testing happens, this mass testing happens, some people don't want to call it mass testing because it's not mass testing but sana maabot po natin yung 20,000 tests a day.

SEN WIN: I think we've seen the private sector doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Red Cross will be putting up a 10,000 per day capacity, that's from the private sector. A lot of the hospitals and private laboratories also are boosting their capacity and that's actually commendable from the private sector for doing the heavy lifting. But I also want to remind the DOH that in the Bayanihan Law, we gave the government powers to buy laboratories, to buy equipment that can be used in laboratories to boost the existing capacities of the existing government laboratories. We only have a handful of regional laboratories. My latest count we only have five regional laboratories out of the six regions. So that's not a lot, in fact in Davao they're only just putting up their laboratories there. So we really need at least one laboratory per region, in high-risk areas, probably one laboratory per province so the testing will be faster and the results will be faster.

Q: Senator Win Gatchalian thank you and take care Sir.

SEN WIN: Thank you Pinky.

[end recording]

News Latest News Feed