By Martin Sadongdong
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been designated by President Duterte to lead the national task force (NTF) created by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to fight COVID-19.
In a virtual press conference in Malacañang on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, IATF spokesperson, said the organizational structure of the NTF was adopted following the provisional approval of the National Action Plan (NAP) to eliminate the threat of COVID-19.
According to IATF Resolution No. 15 that was read by Nograles, the proposed National Action Plan for COVID-19 has been “approved in principle” by the IATF.
Nograles said the National Action Plan was crafted to adopt measures that will provide clear, accurate and timely information to support the operations against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These measures will include creating a system or platform for regular reporting and updating on Covid-19 related news in the country, giving regular press releases and other measures to provide information to the public,” he explained.
Further, the Plan also seeks to adopt measures to contain and mitigate the spread of virus; reduce the spread of new cases; and facilitate the detection, identification and isolation of COVID-19 carriers.
It also aims to continuously sustain the conduct of the operations against COVID-19 pandemic in terms of human resource, logistics and finance; and mitigate the consequences and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the social, economic, and personal security of the Filipino people.
“We are hereby adopting in principle the NTF COVID-19 organizational structure in the NAP to lessen the burden on IATF, and streamline and decentralize the operations in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nograles said.
According to Nograles, the IATF will serve as the “policy-making body of operations” while the proposed NTF COVID-19 shall serve as the “operational command.”
“The national incident command will take charge of the day-to-day concerns and operations,” he explained.
Duterte announced on Tuesday night that the Department of National Defense (DND) will “ramp up” the implementation of the NAP to “reinforce the efforts of the Department of Health (DOH) in addressing the pandemic.”
He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will act as the vice-chairman of the NTF COVID-19, while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are among its most important members.
The decision to let the DND take the lead came a week after Duterte tapped the military to perform a “supporting role” in the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine measures in Metro Manila that was later expanded to cover the entire Luzon following a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 affected persons.
The core members of the NTF COVID-19 include the members of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). It is being supervised by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) which also reports to Lorenzana.
According to Nograles, the NDRRMC shall determine and identify all the other national government agencies that will belong to the NTF COVID-19 organizational structure.
The NTF COVID-19 will be divided into various task groups on response operations; resource management and logistics; and strategic communications.
The task group on response operations will be led by the Department of Health (DOH) Health with support from other national government agencies “to address the enforcement security, food security, disaster risk management, and labor issues.”
The task group on resource management and logistics shall ensure that “critical needs of all concerned agencies will be addressed and provided.”
The task group on strategic communications will be in charge of information dissemination.
“Agencies tapped by the NDRRMC shall immediately designate an official with the rank of Undersecretary or Assistant Secretary to their assigned clusters and these officials shall report directly to the IATF to ensure proper coordination,” Nograles said.