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House to hold question hour for Duque over coronavirus threat

Mara Cepeda
House to hold question hour for Duque over coronavirus threat
House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez says they are giving DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III a 'bigger platform' to allay fears about the new disease

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has summoned Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to its plenary session on Wednesday, January 29, to determine “which are real and which are fake news” about the novel coronavirus or 2019 nCov. 

On Tuesday, January 28, lawmakers approved the motion of House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez to subject Duque to a question hour, a period during the plenary session wherein legislators can ask questions to a department head regarding all matters concerning his agency. (READ: [EDITORIAL] Our biggest enemy amid the Wuhan virus outbreak)

In summoning Duque, Romualdez said the House is merely exercising its oversight function “to allay the fears of our constituents brought about by reports of the Wuhan virus reaching our shores.”

“There are numerous reports about possible infection in several areas of the country. We need to know which of these are real and which are fake news. We are giving Secretary Duque a bigger platform to address the concerns of our constituents,” the Leyte 1st District congressman said. 

Duque is set to face the House members on the same day he confirmed the Department of Health (DOH) is now investigating 24 possible cases of the 2019 nCov nationwide. Among those under investigation are Chinese, United States, German, and Brazilian nationals.  

The DOH said there are still no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines as of Tuesday afternoon, January 28.  

But health officials are monitoring 3 people confined at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila after showings signs of flu.

A boy from Wuhan – the capital city of Hubei province, China, and the source of the 2019 nCov that has so far killed at least 106 in China – tested negative for the disease and was already discharged from the hospital in Cebu. (READ: ’Novel coronavirus’ or 2019 nCoV: What we know so far)

The DOH has activated the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in light of the emerging public health threat. 

The Bureau of Immigration also “temporarily” suspended the visa upon arrival mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen due to the novel coronavirus scare.

In the 17th Congress, lawmakers had subjected then-budget chief Benjamin Diokno to a question hour after the Cabinet official clashed with House members over alleged illegal insertions in the 2019 national budget. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.