PASIG CITY (March 31, 2020)The National Task Force (NTF) created by the government to contain, prevent the spread, eliminate the threat, and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 is now focused on shoring up the operational and logistical capacity of the Department of Health (DOH).

This, according to Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr., who was recently designated by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as chief implementer of the National Action Plan (NAP) against COVID-19.

Galvez said that at this critical stage in the nation’s battle against the deadly disease, there is a need to integrate and synchronize the functions of NTF’s Task Groups on Response Operations, Resource Management and Logistics, and Strategic Communication.

“These task groups have now developed their respective implementation plans and manned the different critical positions. This is anchored on the NTF’s concept of operations which is to contain and prevent the spread, eliminate the threat, and mitigate the impact of the pandemic,” he said.

“The major interventions shall be implemented by the lead agencies where local government units play the decentralized leading role in addressing local but unified response through the regional, provincial and local incident command,” Galvez said.

Boosting logistical operational and logistical capacity

“As we race against time to flatten the curve of the disease, there is an urgent need for us to reinforce the capability of DOH frontline personnel to conduct massive testing and deliver much-needed health care services to communities across the country,” Galvez said.

He said the NTF has created a joint logistics team that is now conducting an inventory of critical medical supplies and equipment such as personnel protective equipment (PPEs), ventilators, respirators and hospital beds.

The Task Group on Resource Management and Logistics is headed by the DSWD Secretary with the Secretaries of the departments of transportation, agriculture, labor and employment, and trade and industry as members.

The NTF Secretariat is being led by the Office of the Civil Defense. Its core members include the DOH, Office of the President, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP) and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

“We are now prioritizing the stockpiling of PPEs which are most essential for our medical frontliners. We will purchase around 500,000 to 1 million PPEs. The first delivery will be on March 31,” Galvez said.  

He bared the private and business sector are also supporting the government’s goal to stockpile as many PPEs as they answered proactively to the call of the government to fight the COVID19 as one nation. Companies such as Solaire have committed to provide at least 30,000 complete sets of PPE by Thursday, April 2.

According to Galvez, the NTF is now gearing up for the massive testing of persons under investigation (PUI) persons, under monitoring (PUMs) and health care workers across the country.  

“DOH is also hastening the accreditation of more COVID-19 capable hospitals, as well as the construction of additional extension tents which will be critical as the DOH ramps up its capacity for massive testing,” Galvez added.

Preparing for influx of cases

The government, he said, is also preparing to convert gymnasiums, convention centers, sport complexes, and hotels in Metro Manila into COVID-19 “forced quarantine areas,” as the country braces for the expected rise in COVID-19 cases due to the DOH’s increase capacity to conduct tests.

These facilities include the Rizal Coliseum, World Trade Center, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex, Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Philippine Arena and the Philippine Sports Complex (ULTRA), Galvez said.

“DOH, AFP and Philippine National Police medical personnel will handle the PUIs and PUMs in the converted facilities. The AFP can provide more than 1,500 cat beds, while more beds can be sourced out through donations or emergency procurement,” he said.

“The conversion of the Rizal Coliseum and the World Trade Center will be completed soon.  Moreover, the DPWH is also prepared to expand the capacity of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and other COVID19 designated hospitals,” Galvez added.

Assistance for OFWs, foreign nationals

Moreover, he said Department of Tourism (DOT), in coordination with Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and DOLE will provide 4,000 hotel rooms for the use of repatriated Filipino OFWs.

“The Department of Transportation and Philippine Coast Guard, in coordination with shipping industry companies, will provide floating vessels which can be used as quarantine areas for our returning seafarers,” Galvez said.

In the meantime, the return of foreign tourists to their home countries are being facilitated through the joint effort of the Department of National Defense (DND), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), DFA, and local government units, he said.

“A total of 12,000 foreign nationals have already been repatriated, while the remaining 2,000 are now awaiting their return to their respective countries. The DFA and DOT are now jointly taking the lead in coordinating with the respective embassies of these nationals,” Galvez said.  

“The DOT, he said, has provided sweeper flights to the foreign tourists to catch up on their chartered flights from the cities of Davao, Cebu and Manila,” he added.

Galvez said the NTF, through the DND, AFP, DFA and concerned embassies, have also provided additional flights for the repatriation of the more than 300 foreign nationals.

Ensuring unhampered movement of logistics

He said the government is also carrying out the necessary interventions to ensure the smooth and unhampered movement of logistical supplies and essential services such as food production and distribution.

He said that the DND and DILG are now working for the uniform implementation of the enhanced community quarantine as provided by the IATF. He also encourages the LGUs to facilitate the smooth flow of cargoes, movement of our health workers, farmers and fishermen, government employees.

Galvez said another concern for the NTF is the forthcoming deportation of about more than 5,000 Filipino Muslims in Malaysia.  With this development, he said quarantine areas should be established in the island–provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.  

“The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government is currently supporting our effort to address this concern. But the LGUs in the region are asking support from the national government and we will try to provide needed health and food services through regional DOH and DSWD offices” he said. ###