Gov’t did ‘enough within its means’ during pandemic, says Andanar ahead of SONA

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MANILA — The government did "enough within its means" to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Malacañang said Monday, ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address in which he is expected to bare plans for reviving the economy. 

The Duterte administration gave cash aid to the most vulnerable families and workers who lost jobs due to the pandemic. It also procured 1,300 hospital beds, 14,000 isolation beds, and 1,900 ventilators as of July to boost the healthcare capacity for coronavirus patients, said Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. 

Authorities have also screened over 1 million Filipinos for the pathogen and is running around 24,000 tests a day he said. 

“The government has done enough within its means because you see, we do not have an infinite source of budget. The government is dependent on the taxes that are collected… and other profit centers,” Andanar told ANC. 

“We have programs that the government implemented for the past few months to address the huge problem of the pandemic. It’s not perfect, but the whole world is grappling with the problem of this pandemic,” he added. 

A recent poll by the Philippine Survey and Research Center showed that around 76 percent of Filipinos are satisfied with Duterte administration’s pandemic response, said Andanar. 

But separate surveys by the Social Weather Stations showed a record 4 in 5 Filipinos saying that their quality of life got worse, and 5.2 million families saying they experienced involuntary hunger in the past 3 months. 

Duterte, in his penultimate SONA, is expected to urge lawmakers to pass the Bayanihan 2 bill that will earmark some P140 billion for test kits, medical supplies and subsidy programs, said Andanar. 

“It’s understandable that people lose jobs, but the government is doing everything so that everybody, every family can eat 3 times a day,” he added. 

Duterte’s SONA is also expected to tackle the government’s “good fiscal management” and “concrete plans” to contain the pandemic and stir the economy., said Andanar. 

“The SONA will be one that is full of optimism and hope,” he said. 

Duterte is unlikely to talk about charter change, for which 1,448 municipal mayors recently expressed support, Andanar said. 

“Charter change is not a priority of this administration. This administration has focused all its efforts to fight COVID-19 and how to support the economy, and help the economy and all the businessmen and all the industries get back on its feet,” he said 

Only 50 guests from Congress and the executive branch will be physically present when Duterte delivers his SONA at the Batasan Pambansa. The speech that will outline the President’s remaining legislative agenda in the last 2 years of his administration will “not go beyond an hour and 20 [minutes]” without ad lib, said Andanar. 

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