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Vergeire: No ‘categorical, official’ response from OP on proposal to extend state of calamity

The Office of the President (OP) has not yet given a concrete answer as to the Department of Health’s (DOH) proposal to extend the state of calamity in the Philippines due to COVID-19, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said Wednesday.

Despite this, Vergeire reiterated that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos already expressed his hesitancy to prolong the state of calamity—which ended on December 31, 2022.

“No categorical and no official response to this request for the extension of the state of calamity. But indirectly, the President already has verbalized in one of his media outings that he is very hesitant to extend the state of calamity,” Vergeire said at a media forum.

Before the year 2022 ended, Vergeire disclosed that the Health Department submitted a memorandum to the OP, recommending a further extension of the state of calamity in the country.

“Tayo naman ay sinagot sa isang meeting na ginawa that was held last December 23 kung saan pinadala ang mga officials ng Office of the President [We were answered in a meeting that was held last December 23 where the officials of the Office of the President were present]. We sat down with other agencies, together with the DOH. We discussed the implications and options that the government can take if and when the state of calamity will not be extended,” she said.

GMA News Online already contacted the Presidential Communications Office for reaction on the matter but it has yet to respond as of posting time.

But in December, Marcos said he was not keen to prolong the state of calamity, adding that it was the “wrong mindset” with which to welcome the New Year.

Vergeire said that with this remark from the President, the DOH already started preparing for alternatives on how it could continue with the COVID-19 response even without the state of calamity.

She said the government can still continue with its vaccination program because vaccines with emergency use authorization (EUA) are granted a one year validity after the ceasing of the state of calamity.

Alert level system

Further, Vergeire said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is set to meet on February 1 to discuss the decoupling of the restrictions from the alert levels.

“Paguusapan din ang ginawang survey ng DILG among our local governments—consultation, actually, about or regarding their capacity to implement safeguards once we decouple the restrictions,” she said.

(We will also discuss the survey conducted by the DILG among our local governments. These are consultations actually about or regarding their capacity to implement safeguards once we decouple the restrictions.)

“Kasama na rin diyan ang pagpapaliwanag sa kanila kung ano ang same level of understanding kung paano natin ipapatupad kapag hindi na kasama ang restrictions doon sa ating alert level system,” she added.

(That includes explaining to them the process of implementation when the restrictions are no longer included in our alert level system.)

Last year, Malacañang said Marcos was seeking the reclassification of restrictions which would be more compatible with the current milder strains of the coronavirus. The President also said the alert level could be adjusted or improved if more people receive COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News