President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases...

Posted by Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines) on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte warned Filipinos they could be wearing masks until December as a vaccine would be the only solution to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Duterte and his top Cabinet men all wore masks in a broadcast aired by state television past midnight on Thursday.

“Covid, anong sagot? Vaccine. Walang vaccine. Covid stays. Mag-maskara tayo hanggang Christmas time,” he said.

The president also bristled at critics looking for billions of pesos in funding he had supposedly obtained to fight the outbreak, arguing that the enhanced community quarantine, extended until April 30, had dried up the government’s revenue sources.

Money being used now was from last year’s outlays, Duterte said.

“`Yung sinasabing intelligence budget, wala pa `yan. Kokolektahin pa `yan. second quarter, third quarter. `Yung 300 billion, wala pa `yan, hangin pa `yan,” he said.

Praise from Dominguez

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III however said the economic team and the central bank had assembled a monetary and fiscal passage worth more than P1 trillion and could borrow $5.6 billion from the World Bank or Asian Development Bank.

If that was not enough, the government could tap the private sector given its good credit rating, he said.

Dominguez said poor families needed to be prioritized as the the money wouldn’t last long.

He said Covid-19 has hit the economy hard, which could lead to gross domestic product growing less than 1 percent or even zero this year.

Filipinos however owed it to the president’s directives that had helped shore up the national coffers and the domestic economy, Dominguez said.

“President Duterte, Filipinos should thank you for your conservative economic policies,” he said.

Praise from Duque, Galvez

Duterte also doubled down on his assertion that he acted early against the virus by imposing a travel ban on Chinese citizens.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and the chief implementer of the Covid-19 national task force, Carlito Galvez Jr., backed Duterte, praising the president for what they said were decisive actions to stem the outbreak.

“Isa po tayo sa pinakamababa sa total cases. Two cases per million. Ito po ay nagsasalamin sa dalawang malakas na desisyon ng ating mahal na pangulo: absolute travel restriction sa China at lockdown, enhanced community quarantine,” Duque said.

Galvez claimed the Philippines’s preparations were even better than Japan’s, where the health system was struggling. Fast decisions were “paving the way for good results,” he said.

Also asked by Duterte to report were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who gave updates on the conversion of various facilities into temporary hospitals or quarantine centers, and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, who talked about the distribution of cash assistance to poor families.

Bautista admitted to some difficulties distributing the funds, but said families already enrolled in the 4Ps cash transfer program and transport groups had received money.

“Walang perfect na sistema…this is not the time for blame game,” he said. (