IATF defends assigning Cabinet members to MECQ areas

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles defended the decision of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to assign members of the Cabinet and the task force to serve as "big brothers" or "big sisters" to areas under the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) as the government steps up its COVID-19 response efforts.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles

Nograles made the statement after Senator Nancy Binay described the plan of the IATF to assign "overseers" who will show support to local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal as a plan that did not undergo careful planning, and doubted if Cabinet secretaries are able to do additional jobs.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday, Nograles said assigning Cabinet members to support LGUs is a good plan.

"Actually it's a good plan because pagdating sa (when it comes to the) IATF, the members who are assigned per city are IATF members. So when we come to our IATF meetings, we can bring our experiences, also in terms of our coordination with our adopted LGUs," he said.

According to Nograles, who was assigned to Quezon City with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the set up will make it easier for the concerned LGUs to relay their issues to the IATF.

"That way, mas efficient din po (it's also more efficient) and gives everyone a new perspective. I think new perspectives are important especially in this fight against COVID-19," he said.

"I would act as a bridge to the IATF national in terms of the needs of the Quezon City government para ma-speed-up din ang mga pangangailangan nila (so we can expedite whatever they need)," he added.

According to Nograles, the arrangement was a consensus among members of the IATF, saying the body wanted to enhance its mechanisms and not go with the usual.

"Ever since nag-MECQ naman (Since we reverted to MECQ) we were looking at what to enhance, what mechanisms to put in place, what interventions to put in place that would make it different from business as usual," he said.

"Obviously we don't want 'business as usual.' We want to step up our efforts," he added.

He said that Quezon City has several public  and private hospitals and they will check which ones need more beds for COVID-19 patients.

Nograles said they will beef up contact tracing efforts in Quezon City and fix the system of reporting from the LGU level to the national government level.

Nograles  assured that the national government intervention in LGUs will not make the work redundant, since their participation will ensure that the system is more "coordinated."

The Palace official said the IATF was looking at Cebu City as an example. President Duterte had tasked Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to oversee the COVID-19 response efforts of the LGU in Cebu City following the surge of cases there.

"Lumabas itong Cebu City as an example and what worked in Cebu City. So napag-usapan na, 'Sige mag-assign tayo ng mga Cabinet secretaries to act as enablers.' (Cebu City came out as an example and what worked in Cebu City. So, we agreed to assign Cabinet secretaries to act as enablers)," Nograles said.

"Because of the success we had in Cebu City, much the same way, we wanto to be able to duplicate or replicate that here in Metro Manila," he added.
Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal are under MECQ until Aug.  18 following the medical community's request for a "timeout."