By Genalyn Kabiling
The government remains focused on addressing the coronavirus emergency even as the communist rebels are considered a huge threat to national security, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after President Duterte claimed the communist group posed more danger to national security than the Abu Sayyaf Group.
“Well, although he said number one po iyan, siyempre number one pa rin COVID. Kasi halos lahat naman ng atensyon ng gobyerno ngayon puro COVID (Well although he said that’s number one, of course the number one is COVID because all the attention of government now is on COVID),” he said during a Palace news conference.
“Pero in terms of defense and national security, ang pinakamalaking hadlang o banta ay ang mga komunista. Iyan po ang ibig sabihin ng ating Presidente dahil hindi naman po maipagkakaila na talagang COVID pa rin ang inaatupag ng buong daigdig (But in terms of defense and national security, the biggest threat is the communists. That’s what the President meant because we can’t deny that COVID is the main concern of the entire world),” he added.
The President, in his public address Monday night, branded the communist rebels as among the major security threats in the country. He directed the military to hit hard against the high-value targets in the rebel group.
“Terrorism is number one in our list. Actually the number one threat to the country hindi Abu Sayyaf, hindi ‘yung mga terorista of no value. Itong high value targets ito ‘yung mga komunista. Kaya ang utos ko talaga sa Armed Forces, sa sundalo, upakan mo, upakan mo (Terrorism is number one in our list. Actually the number one threat to the country is not the Abu Sayyaf, not these terrorists of no value. These high value targets are the communists. That’s why my order to the Armed Forces, my soldiers, is to hit them hard),” he said.
Targeted testing efforts
The government meantime continues to scale up targeted testing and improve its capacity to detect, isolate and treat patients infected with COVID-19.
Roque said the government has procured 239,857 test kits that can perform approximately 8,544,282 tests. He said around 43,750 RT-PCR test kits that can generate 1,050,000 tests have already arrived.
As of June 20, Roque said around 594,817 coronavirus tests have been conducted. The country has 63 testing laboratories.
According to Roque, the government aims to reach a national testing capacity goal of 50,000 a day. The actual daily tests conducted ranged between 10,000 and 12,000.
Roque also urged the public to defy the forecast of University of the Philippines researchers that coronavirus cases may reach 40,000 by end of the month by observing quarantine rules and health precautions.
“The challenge, mga kababayan: Let us disprove the prediction of UP na magiging 40,000. Let us stay at home, let us observe social distancing, maghugas ng kamay, gumamit ng mga disinfectants (wash hands and use disinfectants),” he said.
“I hope everyone will accept this challenge,” he added.