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In ‘contra-SONA,’ Abante stresses need for comprehensive COVID-19 masterplan


House Minority Leader Benny Abante Jr. on Tuesday stressed the need for a comprehensive masterplan for the country to beat COVID-19.

Abante made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), which critics say discussed no concrete masterplan on how the government should respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

"What will the government do to protect us from this invisible enemy? What is the country’s comprehensive plan to beat COVID-19?" Abante asked in his contra-SONA speech traditionally delivered by the House minority leader after the President's SONA itself.

Abante said that while there are positive developments in the country's testing capacity, the government has not disclosed a concrete plan on what to do with those who tested positive for the disease.

"What does the government plan to do as it identifies more and more Filipinos with the virus? What are the steps it will take to systematically reduce the number of people who contract this disease? What will it do to capacitate our hospitals and prepare our frontliners for the surge of new cases?" he said.

"I am sure at this point––after all the sacrifices our medical personnel have made––that everyone can agree that our doctors, nurses, and heroes in white deserve our gratitude. However, they need more than that. Ano po ang plano para tulungan sila?" he added.

Abante noted that a comprehensive plan to address the COVID-19 crisis in the country is needed now more than ever in order to avoid situations like that in Rizal Memorial Sports Complex's baseball stadium, where thousands of locally stranded individuals are cramped without social distancing.

He said that while the plan to bring these individuals home was good, it will cause more harm if it was not planned out carefully.

"Simply put: if we fail to plan properly, our plan will undoubtedly fail. We need a comprehensive, coherent strategy to beat COVID-19—one that is not dependent on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the mass production of which may be months away," he said.

Duterte, in his SONA, urged Congress to pass the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which he said could help in the government's response and recovery plans related to COVID-19.

Abante expressed the House minority bloc's support for this law, as well as the other COVID-19-related measures that the President wants Congress to act on.

"Let me be the first to state that we in the Minority are more than willing to support legislation that will help revive our economy and help keep Filipino businesses afloat," he said.

"If the economy needs a ventilator, so to speak, we will help find the money to pay for it," he added.

Towards the end of his speech, Abante reminded his fellow congressmen of what Duterte mentioned during his SONA: "Buhay muna, bago ang lahat."

"Let these words guide our actions and determine our priorities. Let these words inspire us to speak up and to set aside our differences; to accept and tolerate differing opinions and views; to work and hammer out the plans needed to protect our people and revive our economy," he said.

"Let these words remind us that at the end of the day, COVID-19 is the enemy, and that we should be united in our single-minded devotion to vanquishing this foe and repairing the damage this pandemic has caused," he added. — BM, GMA News