Senators to IATF: Let LGUs handle pandemic response

Published September 29, 2021, 10:38 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators believe that it’s time for the government’s pandemic task force to let local government units (LGUs) handle the COVID-19 and its impacts on their jurisdictions.

Members of the Philippine National Police man a checkpoint in a barangay in Sampaloc, Manila after it was placed under lockdown on March 17, 2021. (Ali Vicoy/MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Francis Tolentino on Wednesday, September 29, said that while he believes that the Interagency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has done an “okay” job in addressing the coronavirus outbreak, “it has come to a point that they have to simmer down”.

“They have achieved their usefulness, they have peaked, and I think they have done their best. But for us to continue with this mode, I think it’s time to change into another approach,” Tolentino said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel.

“They have to let go. They have to let go of some of their functions and just let the LGUs, just let the Department of Health, the DILG (Department of Interior and Local and Government), pursue their real mandates,” he opined.

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Local Government said that lockdowns, as a solution to the surge of infections, have been “too frequent”.

He also observed that the task force has been acting “as if [it] is the government” in implementing policies in the country.

“But it’s not supposed to be that way. They were not elected to pursue policies behind closed doors — this has to be more inclusive,” the administration ally said.

He said the national government should “be allowing more liberties for our people, for the private sector, for the LGUs”.

“Nothing against the IATF, they have done their job, but it’s now time for use to shift to another gear,” Tolentino said.

Senator Joel Villanueva renewed the call for the abolition of the IATF during the Senate finance committee’s hearing on the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) proposed 2022 budget.

“For quite a long time, nakita naman natin (and as we have seen), the IATF, wala eh — it’s not working. Bakit hindi natin isipin na tanggalin na lang natin ‘tong IATF, bigay natin sa LGUs (Why don’t we just consider removing this IATF, let’s give it to the LGUs)? They know better,” Villanueva said at the budget hearing on Tuesday, September 28.

“I hope that it’s also an option to look into: That [we should] empower the LGUs. They know better…than the national government,” he added.

Senator Imee Marcos also said the national government to rethink its approach to the pandemic.

“We’re very much against curfews, which I think are a very bizarre reaction to the pandemic,” Marcos said, noting that curfews also contribute to crowding in establishments.

“We have to change our mindset about many of these things, and lockdowns really have to be rethought carefully,” she appealed.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara likewise pushed for less stringent regulations for fully-vaccinated individuals to allow the reopening of restaurants and businesses.

“Baka pwedeng i-relax ‘yong capacity requirements kapag vacinated naman sila (Maybe we can relax the capacity requirements if customers are fully vaccinated),” Angara proposed.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez agreed with the lawmakers, saying they also advocate for pushing back cufews “as late as possible” and the policy to reopen the economy further.