Three years and counting into the pandemic and as the omicron surge drives COVID infections to fresh highs, four presidential candidates on Saturday discussed ways to lift the Philippines from the crisis.
With 3 million total infections since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Philippines is battling one of Southeast Asia's worst outbreaks. The country also imposed one of the world's longest lockdowns, one that sank the economy into the worst recession since World War II.
In separate interviews with GMA News' Jessica Soho, four candidates discussed their pandemic recovery plans:
Sen. Panfilo Lacson
"Ang dapat itama dito, dapat naging proactive, laging science-based at data-driven. Lahat ng kilos natin, dapat naka-base sa siyensya, nakatuon sa datos na available," Lacson said.
"Sa ayuda, diba dapat inuna ng gobyerno ang pag-gastos? Ang problema, anong inuna? Hindi ba yung bureaucracy, hindi nakakarating, tapos may corruption pa," he added.
"Ako talaga, kaya galit ako sa corruption, sa panahon ng pandemya ay sakit na nga yung ina-atenan mo, tapos nanakawan mo pa yung pera na nakalaan sa pandemya?" Lacson said.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno
Moreno acknowledged the struggles of vaccine procurement due to limited supply worldwide. When vaccines arrive, Moreno said local governments, Manila specifically, moved to get as many people inoculated.
"Noong dumating yung omicron, hinayaan ko yung pulitka, pinamigay ko na lang sa kanila. Nag-focus kami on how to save lives as many as posisble, as soon as possible. Kung makikita niyo, Manila ang takbuhan ng mga gamot, bakuna, at saka mga testing kits or swab testing," Moreno said.
Distribution of ayuda remainds a probelm: "Dapat mas efficient, yung ang talagang naging hamon sa national government," Moreno said.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao
Pacquiao is pushing for the vaccination of Filipinos to prevent lockdowns, which drove businesses to close, left people jobless, and plunged the economy into recession, he said. "Dapat ang pondo nakalaan sa pag-purchase, sa pag-procure ng vaccines."
Vice President Leni Robredo
Robredo said there were good policies and actions taken to combat COVID-19, but fell short because "walang sense of urgency."
"Maraming problema sanang na-prevent natin mangyari kung mas mabili tayong umaksyon."
At the onset of the pandemic, moves like procuring PPEs and closing borders to foreign travelers were good, but came too late, Robredo said.
"Sobrang tagal ng ating pag-desisyon. So while may mga bagay na magagandang ginawa, nababagalan talaga," she added.