LGUs will now lead fight vs coronavirus – IATF

MANILA, Philippines – Local government units (LGUs) – "enabled" by the national government – will now lead the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Saturday, April 18.

Nograles said in a virtual press briefing that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases arrived at the decision during its meeting on Friday, April 17, where it issued IATF Resolution No. 25.

“The IATF adopts a national government-enabled, local government unit-led, and people-centered response to the COVID-19 health event,” said Nograles, the IATF spokesman.

To execute this the IATF directed all government agencies “to recommend sector-specific plans, strategies, and targets" to the task force and ordered the National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 to “develop new operational plans.”

“LGUs are enjoined to pursue regional cooperation in leading the fight against COVID-19,” the IATF added under Resolution 25.

The IATF adopted the strategy weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that grants him 30 special powers to address the coronavirus pandemic, followed by the rollout of the IATF's National Action Plan to contain the virus.

It also comes nearly two weeks ahead of the end of the Luzon lockdown on April 30.

Even before the IATF announcement, many LGUs have been proactive in their campaigns against the spread of COVID-19, taking various initiatives to protect their residents and prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Under IATF Resolution 25, the task force directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), in coordination with LGUs, to now lead the government’s coronavirus contact-tracing efforts.

For this purpose, the DILG and the Department of Health (DOH) will enter into a data-sharing agreement guided by Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

The contact-tracing task used to be assigned to the Office of Civil Defense under IATF Resolution 22.

Nograles also said that the IATF approved the DOH guidlines for the use of rapid anti-body test kits, and that details regarding this would be released on Monday, April 20.

During the Friday meeting, the IATF reorganized the NTF subgroup on food security into the National Task Group on Food Security chaired by the Department of Agriculture.

It has as members the Department of Trade and Industry, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Education, Department of Science and Technology, the National Security Council, DILG, and other agencies as determined by the DA.

The IATF also approved the DA recommendatio to urge LGUs to incude sugar packs in their relief goods to help sugar farmers and the sugar industry. 

On Monday, the IATF will discuss possible scenarios after the Luzon lockdown, which ends on April 30. The expected lengthy discussions will be the basis of the task force's recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte on the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Nograles said during the Saturday briefing that the IATF will follow the earlier set guidelines for a government decision on the lockdown: trends in the COVID-19 epidemiological curve, capacity of the health care system, and social economic, and security factors. 

The Philippines has 5,878 coronavirus cases, with 387 deaths and 487 recoveries as of Friday, April 17. Rappler.com