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Pandemic response to be part of national security plan — DND

PANDEMIC response would become a top national security priority, the country’s Defense chief said on Sunday, more than a year since the coronavirus pandemic started.

Government response to pandemics would be included in the country’s national security plan, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said in a Viber message. “This pandemic has clearly demonstrated that health should be a major concern of the government.”

“While we modernize our Armed Forces, there is a more compelling reason to modernize our health system as well,” he added.

The national security plan is a document that contains strategic policy goals and state objectives to protect the “well-being of its people and institutions and its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the website of the National Security Council.

“It is a must to include pandemic response in the guise of disaster risk and resilience management because, with emphasis, the consequences of not preparing outweigh the cost of preparing,” John Paul R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management, said in a Viber message.

“Because we are not prepared for a pandemic, the lockdowns as a reaction to contain the pandemic cost the economy so much,” he said. “Not preparing may result in larger and unprecedented costs.”

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 8,162 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 997,523.

The death toll rose by 109 to 16,783, while recoveries increased by 20,509 to 903,665, it said in a bulletin.

There are 77,075 active cases, 1% of which were critical, 95.5% were mild, 1.5% did not show symptoms, 1.2% were severe and 0.84% were moderate.

The agency said 19 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 13 of which were tagged as recoveries. It said 52 recoveries were reclassified as deaths.

Two laboratories were closed April 23 and eight failed to submit data.

A panel at the House of Representatives last year approved a bill that seeks to create a permanent National Health Security Council that will formulate an emergency plan to handle public health emergencies.

Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., chief implementer of the country’s pandemic plan, earlier said the measure would complement the law on universal healthcare.

Mr. Rivera said the country’s national security plan should also focus on the creation of local vaccine manufacturing facilities.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez earlier said the government was in talks with at least four pharmaceutical companies that have expressed intent to set up vaccine manufacturing facilities in the country.

Mr. Rivera said the security road map should include pandemic prevention such as automatic border closures, travel advisories, and the deployment of health workers here and abroad.

The security plan should also consider social amelioration and the creation of systems to prevent, manage and contain a health crisis.

“We should have learned something from this pandemic to mitigate the ill effects on households, companies and the economy,” he said.

George T. Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said making pandemic response part of the country’s national security plan would boost business confidence.

“It’s important that the security protocols by military or law enforcers on such matters be properly implemented with no intrusion on individual safety and freedom,” he said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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