Press Release
February 11, 2021

Villanueva: Government response to pandemic needs an immediate booster shot

President Duterte's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is so dismal that it needs "an immediate booster shot," Senator Joel Villanueva said, reacting to a recent survey showing that the Philippine government got the lowest approval rating for its response to the pandemic among Southeast Asian countries.

In a statement, Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, said he was not surprised by the results of the survey given the unsatisfactory performance of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases in handling the pandemic.

"It only confirms what most Filipinos feel. And the writing on the wall has been evident for all of us to see," Villanueva in a statement.

He said the government response should be "given an immediate booster shot and the ways to tame the pain require scaling up because the health crisis is fast turning into a humanitarian crisis."

Findings by the Singapore-based ASEAN Studies Centre showed that a majority or 53.7% of its Filipino respondents thumbed down on the Duterte administration's handling of the health crisis at home, which has led to more than 541,000 infections and 11,401 deaths to date.

Among those surveyed are Filipinos in the policy, research, business, civil society and media communities and the results showed that the Philippines had the lowest approval rating for their government's response to the pandemic among Southeast Asian countries.

"That is not the kind of news that a desperate and discouraged people would like to hear. One aspect of pandemic management is that you dispense hope that will boost the morale of the nation," he said.

Villanueva said that mitigating the impact of rising food prices and dwindling supply essential food products in the market should be the immediate concern of the IATF managing the effects of the pandemic.

"Sabi ko nga po sa kanila, baka tawagin na po silang Inter-Agency Task Force on Food kasi may mga desisyon silang may malaking epekto pag dating sa usapin ng food security," Villanueva said. "Isa po dito ay mataas na presyo ng pagkain. Ang masama pa, nagkakaubusan na po ng supply. Suntok na po ito sa sikmura ng ating mga kababayan,"

The Philippines has remained the region's second-worst hit by the pandemic. Its neighbor Indonesia which has the highest number of cases at 1.17 million and nearly 32,000 deaths, yielded a 50.4% disapproval against 24.1% approved and 25.6% neutral.

In contrast, Vietnam had the highest approval rating among its more specialized citizens at 96.6%, followed by Brunei at 93.9% and Singapore at 92.4%.

Villanueva explained that funded government programs designed to mitigate the ill-effects of the pandemic should be implemented immediately and their budget spent.

Gauging from the slack on government spending in the 2021 national budget, Villanueva lamented that that "there seems to be no sense of urgency on the part of the agencies concerned."

"Parang ang mentalidad po dapat ay 'the sky is falling.' There should be a sense of urgency," he noted.

Villanueva also urged the government to "speed up vaccine delivery because telling people that it will be completed by 2023 is a big letdown for them."

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