2022 Philippine Elections

Isko’s COVID-19 plan: Boost healthcare system while opening economy

Pia Ranada
Isko’s COVID-19 plan: Boost healthcare system while opening economy

PLAN. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno explains his pandemic plan in an interview with Rappler reporter Pia Ranada.

Rappler

Isko Moreno thumbs down task forces and czars, and promises goal-setting and results-oriented pandemic leadership

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno laid out his plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic while ushering in economic recovery in a Rappler Talk Newsmaker interview on Tuesday, September 21, his first interview about his presidential bid.

What stood out in his proposal is his insistence that ensuring sufficient health facilities, equipment, and medicine should come hand-in-hand with reopening the economy.

“While we’re opening up or before we open up, kailangan mapapanatag natin yung mga doktor (we have to assure the doctors) and nurses that there is enough facility, equipment, medicine that are available, that doctors can prescribe a critical person,” said Moreno.

“We buy this, we stock this, project, create a trajection, how much do we need if, and if set A, set B. You address this, then you talk to your medical frontliners, tulungan ‘nyo na ako, buksan natin ang ekonomiya (help me, let’s open our economy),” he continued.

As proof he can deliver, Moreno cited the 344-bed COVID-19 field hospital Manila was able to build in 52 days in preparation for the Delta variant. The field hospital was recognized by the national government, with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III even present at its opening last June.

Vaccination will continue to be critical to pandemic response and Moreno’s goal that the country should “learn to live with the virus” – also a maxim of President Rodrigo Duterte’s pandemic task force.

“We cannot keep on hiding, we cannot keep locking down and locking down, flip-flopping, we cannot do that,” said Moreno.

No more task forces

Doctors and experts in appropriate fields would be tapped to lead the government’s pandemic response under his administration, if he wins the 2022 elections.

“I will involve an infectious disease doctor. I will involve a pulmonologist, I will involve those people who know how to manage hospital administration, key people, specific career on a specific task, creating an orchestra, playing different music,” said the presidential aspirant.

For this reason, he said, he chose a doctor, Willie Ong, to be his running mate. Part of his inspiration in choosing Ong was his positive experience in having a doctor as a vice mayor. Honey Lacuna, Manila vice mayor, is a physician.

Moreno doesn’t agree with setting up task forces and appointing “czars” for certain aspects of pandemic response, as Duterte did in tapping a “czar” each for testing, tracing, treatment, and vaccination.

“‘Yang mga czar, czar na ‘yan, mga duplications sa functions sa gobyerno. Him (Willie Ong) being VP, sa kanya na lahat…para wala nang magtuturuan (Those czar positions are just duplications of government functions. Him being VP, he will be in charge of it all…. so there is no pointing fingers),” said Moreno.

He said he would replicate the command structure he used as Manila mayor, when he sat with hospital directors, health center chiefs, doctors, and agencies to get updates and set targets.

Wala nang task force ganito, task force ganyan, ang daming nagluluto masisira ang ulam (No more task force this or that, too many cooks spoil the broth),” said the 46-year-old politician.

The IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) was actually created by the late Benigno Aquino III through a 2014 executive order and is composed of a handful of Cabinet members, including the health secretary.

But the National Task Force vs. COVID-19 was created by Duterte and is led by retired military officials.

Moreno promised to fully “participate” in crafting pandemic policies and promised goal-setting and results-driven leadership.

Duterte, the man Moreno hopes to succeed, has, in contrast, been criticized for oftentimes merely rubber-stamping decisions by his task force without fully understanding the nuances of policies.

Podcast

[PODCAST] What is Duterte’s actual role in pandemic response?

[PODCAST] What is Duterte’s actual role in pandemic response?

– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.