MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana calls on the military and police as he takes the lead in implementing the government’s National Action Plan (NAP) on addressing the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The 71-year-old Lorenzana sought “the full support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in protecting the Filipino people during the ongoing public health emergency,” according to a statement released by the Department of National Defense (DND) on Thursday afternoon, March 26.
“Vital to the success of this effort is the high level of inter-agency coordination that the defense and security sector should implement…in tandem with the national government agencies, local government units, non-government organizations, and civil society organizations so that a holistic approach to this challenge can be pursued,” Lorenzana said.
On Wednesday, March 25, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) published a resolution that delegates the enforcement of the NAP to a proposed “National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19,” with the defense chief at the helm.
The IATF-EID, led by the Department of Health, will then become the policy-making body on operations, while the NTF COVID-19 will be the enforcer, to “lessen the burden” on the IATF-EID.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), already led by Lorenzana as DND chief, will identify the units that will comprise the NTF COVID-19.
The NDRRMC is normally the agency that leads the government’s response to natural disasters.
“The NAP encompasses the whole-of-government response against the threat of COVID-19, with the AFP and the PNP taking the lead in strictly implementing the enhanced community quarantine, ensuring unimpeded supply of food and non-food supplies in the communities, as well as maintaining a systematic and orderly implementation of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19,” the DND said.
COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Before this, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) was in charge of enforcing the government’s response to the pandemic, especially the “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, and other parts of the country.
The police, a civilian force supervised by the DILG, were the frontline enforcers of the lockdown, with the military only as a secondary line of support.
The new set-up led by the defense chief puts the military in a more prominent position. The DILG is similarly placed second to the DND in the new plan.
Luzon is set to be on lockdown until April 12, while Metro Manila will be on lockdown until April 14.
Lockdowns in different parts of the country are meant to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. As of Thursday afternoon, the Philippines has recorded 707 confirmed cases of the disease, with 28 recoveries and 45 deaths. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.