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Pimentel: Marcos should appoint DOH chief who can make the country 'live with the virus'

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Friday urged President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to appoint his alter ego to the Department of Health and give all the support needed to enable the country to "live with the virus."

"Then he should appoint his 'alter ego' as head of the DOH. Someone who shares the same thinking he just explained. Get an outsider if necessary. But show and shower him or her with all the support for us to be able to 'live with the virus,'" Pimentel told GMA News Online in a Viber message.

The senator made the statement when asked about the President's pronouncement on Thursday that he would only appoint a health secretary if the country's situation had already returned to normal in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire currently sits as the DOH's officer-in-charge.

“Paabutin natin doon and then we will normalize also the reorganization of the government,” Marcos told reporters.

"The reason is I want people to understand that this is the government's work, not everything is a crisis, so i-normalize natin ang trabaho ng gobyerno. That is what I am trying to do, so that everyday functions are fulfilled, everyday without fuss, without bother, without gulo, without fixers, without paying, 'yan ang inaayos ko. So that is what I am hoping to get to that point, especially in the DOH and DA," he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Sonny Angara supported Marcos' goal of doing away with the state of emergency to encourage more foreign tourists and visitors.

"I think the President is on the right track here because we may be inadvertently sending the wrong message by maintaining a state of emergency, when other countries have been quick to communicate that things have gone back to normal," Angara said in a separate message to GMA News Online.

"Di naman ibig din sabihin na nag-relax na tayo sa pagsunod sa mga health protocols pero dapat ma-communicate natin sa turista at mga gustong bumisita dito na gumanda na ang sitwasyon," he added.

(This doesn't mean that we will relax our observance of health protocols. We should communicate to the foreign tourists and visitors who wish to go to the Philippines that the situation here is improving.)

On Thursday, Marcos said there is a need to continue the state of calamity while the government looks for ways to "normalize" the situation in the country.

"Sa ngayon naghahanap kami ng paraan para ma-normalize na natin at hindi na natin kailangan sabihin na ang Pilipinas state of calamity pa rin," he said.

(We are now looking for ways to normalize things and we may not need to say that the Philippines is still under a state of calamity.)

"We have to get away from the emergency stance of the DOH because we have to open up businesses, we have to make the Philippines more hospitable to travelers, both business and tourist," he added. —AOL/VBL, GMA News