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Pernia says his push for infra works amid ECQ caused dissonance in Cabinet

Newly resigned Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia over the weekend said he wanted to continue serving the government in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but his proposal to open up more economic activity was a "dissonant" view in the Cabinet.

According to Pernia—who left his post as the chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) last week—said he chose to quit given the differences among other members of the economic cluster.

"Well, I wanted to stay on and continue the fight against COVID-19 but when the orchestra is not well-orchestrated then you have a problem," he said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

"Since I seem to be a dissonant voice among others, I though I should just quit," he added, but declined to elaborate on the Cabinet members he had differences with.

As of Saturday, April 18, 2020, the Philippines has so far recorded a total of 6,086 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease. This includes 516 recovers and 397 deaths.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon from March 17 to April 13. It has since been extended to last until April 30 given the rising number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Pernia said he was among those who pushed for the resumption of several cnostruction projects such as the maintenance works of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3), the extension of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) to Cavite, among others.

"This is the best time for such infrastructure projects when traffic is at a minimal level. So when we go back to when things are normal, then people can expect easier traffic or less congestion," he explained.

However, the proposal was not approved by the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) which heads government efforts against COVID-19.

"My training in economics is that in a market economy like ours, the private sector is the engine for economic growth while the government provides the kind of policy environment that encourages the private sector to thrive," said Pernia.

"It is understandable that there would be differences in national development philosophy, given that different people have different educational and disciplinal backgrounds," he elaborated.

Pernia said he was not able to personally speak with Duterte regarding the matter, given security protocol amid the coronavirus disease.

For its part, Malacañang thanked Pernia for his services to the Duterte administration and has since appointed Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua as acting secretary of NEDA. — Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA News