HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, QUEZON CITY (26 JUNE 2021) — As the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, all sectors of society must work together and contribute in preventing the spread of the disease.

This was the message of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, as he highlighted the government’s ongoing pandemic response efforts, while emphasizing the importance of getting the COVID-19 jab.

“We cannot continue living in the shadow of this potent enemy, especially now that science and medicine has proven that it is possible to live with – if not entirely defeat – this virus,” the President said.

“The health and safety protocols we put in place have proven effective in slowing the spread of the virus. But the best solution is still vaccination,” he added.

The President urged local chief executives to ramp up their vaccination efforts in order to provide their constituents a greater level of protection against the disease.

“With the continuous [arrival] of COVID-19 vaccines, we are ready to boost further our daily vaccination rate. I am also encouraging our local government units to hasten their roll out and strengthen their inoculation program,” he said.

Duterte also appealed to the public to get inoculated as soon as they can, as he asked for patience among those who are still waiting in line to get the jab.

“I implore our countrymen who are now in the list of sectors to be inoculated to get vaccinated now. To those who received their first doses, please return for your second shot,” Duterte said.

“I also ask for patience to those who are next in line to receive their vaccine. More and more COVID-19 vaccines are arriving each week and you will soon have your turn,” he added.

Whole-of-Nation Approach against the virus

According to the President, the country would not have survived the ongoing pandemic were it not for the bayanihan sprit exhibited by all sectors of society.

In particular, Duterte thanked the Congress for the critical legislation they passed in support of the government’s COVID-19 response measures.

“We moved quickly to safeguard the well-being of every Filipino through preventive and responsive health and safety measures, and broad and inclusive social amelioration programs or SAP,” the President stressed.

“Thanks to the support of Congress, we launched the most extensive Social Protection Program in our country’s history, with the passage of Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2,” he said.

“With the help of Congress, we passed 13 measures that established new (facilities) and improved the capacity of existing hospitals around the country to provide quality care and services to our people, especially amid the ongoing (COVID-19 pandemic),” Duterte added.

Duterte noted that the country’s “national health system and resilience were tested to the hilt,” yet the government was able to quickly respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

These interventions included the establishment of over 260 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories, capable of conducting 50,000 tests a day.

Over 9,000 temporary treatment and monitoring facilities were also set up nationwide, with a total bed capacity of over 140,000.

“Together with local governments and the private sector, we quickly established mega quarantine facilities that could accommodate more cases,” Duterte said.

“Modular hospitals and quarantine facilities have also been established nationwide, especially in Metro Manila,” he added.

Taking care of the people

With the recent heavy rains experienced across the country due to the southwest monsoon, the President called on local government units to ensure the health and safety of the people who line up in vaccination sites.

“You should look for a gym, at bigyan mo lahat ng tao ng number,” Duterte said, without mentioning specific LGUs.

“Corollary to this, it is high time that clear, precise and uniform protocols and guidelines are issued in anticipation of the vaccination of more Filipinos and the steady reopening of our society,” he added.

As of July 26, the country has already received 31,360,700 vaccine doses coming from six vaccine makers.

As of July 25, 6,089,314 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, while 11,113,107 individuals have already received their first dose.

In response to the President’s SONA, Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer, remains confident that the current trajectory of the government’s vaccination throughput will continue to go up.

“I believe we are on track to realizing our goal of achieving population protection within this year. With the steady arrival of our vaccine supplies, we can continue to expand our vaccination program to cover a larger segment of the population,” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar also echoed the President’s views on learning to live with the virus.

“It will take some time before we can completely eradicate COVID-19. Hence, we must develop a mindset on how we can live with the virus as we gradually open up our economy. This means that we always have to be mindful of our safety and the safety of everyone around us,” Galvez said.

“Even if a person is fully vaccinated, minimum public health standards must still be strictly followed and enforced,” he added. END