FILE PHOTOS Senate President Tito Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson.

MANILA, Philippines — The national government must learn to move from resorting to lockdowns just to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, as both Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III believe these measures are very detrimental to society.

Lacson and Sotto, who are seeking the presidency and the vice presidency in the 2022 national elections, favor the opening of the economy to revive industries hard-hit by the lockdowns, including the most recent one last August and September due to the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Sotto in particular said that lockdowns only serve to delay the transmissions — stressing that the right thing to do is to prevent infections in the first place.

“Bottom line, sa nakita natin sa atin — ang ipinupunto ko, ganoon din ‘yung ibang mga kasama namin, even ‘yung members of the diplomatic corps—the lockdowns are detrimental. It’s detrimental. Ang nangyayari, pino-postpone mo lang, imbes na i-address mo,” Sotto said in a media forum on Thursday.

“So, dapat maging maingat na tayo dito sa mga lockdown na ‘to. Lumagpas na tayo ng isang taon at kalahati. We should continue with the enhanced information dissemination on health protocols. ‘Yun ang mga mahahalagang dapat ginagawa natin and then, of course, the immunization—the vaccines,” he added.

Lacson said that with the bulk of vaccines that has arrived in the country, it could be a perfect time to open the economy again as the country can no longer sustain being under lockdown.

“It’s about time na mag-open up tayo, ‘yung pag-li-lift ng curfew, pati ‘yung pagtataas ng capacity ng mga passenger buses — tama ‘yung move na ‘yon — at saka ‘yung malawakang involvement ng mga LGU tungkol sa pagbabakuna. Matagal na rin namin ito talagang tinutulak din,” he explained.

“Kaya lang, ‘yung containment strategy, kailangan hindi mawala sa atin—sa isipan ng ating mga kababayan pati na rin sa isipan ng mga namamahala, mga namumuno, patikular na ‘yung mga local government unit,” he added.

Lacson and Sotto’s statements came after they were asked about the national government’s recent moves to ease lockdown restrictions, as part of a continuous effort to revive the economy.

Since the last surge in cases, Metro Manila and other areas have gone down to either Alert Leven 3 or 2, with COVID-19 cases on the downtrend.  However, several public health experts have warned against complacency, because there are still COVID-19 variants being observed that may cause new surges.

However, Sotto also expressed concerns that the quality of education in the country may be spiraling down due to a lack of face-to-face classes for two school years — which can only be solved by opening schools again.

“Palagay ko, isa sa mga nakikita namin at naririnig ko, ang Pilipinas—ang educational system natin maganda, magaling, because magaling mag-English ang mga Pilipino e. Pero lately itong one year and a half na ‘to maraming kinakabahan. Maraming kinakabahan na medyo ma-se-setback tayo,” Sotto said.

“So, baka panahon na talaga para sa mga school opening. Kung gusto nilang experimental muna, sige. Pero ‘yung granular lockdown naman pwede namang ‘yun lang e. ‘Yung mga area na [wala] naman talagang problema, palagay ko dapat magkaroon na ng mga pagbubukas ng eskuwelahan, ‘yung face-to-face,” he added.

The tandem’s suggestions echo that of other presidential candidates, particularly Vice President Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who have long advocated for a better COVID-19 response that would prevent lockdowns.

Last August 4, Robredo said that the lockdowns should just be a stop-gap measure, meant to temporarily stop the growing infections, not a permanent solution.  Then as early as February 21, she has urged the national government to open classes in areas where there are no COVID-19 transmissions or where cases are low.

For Moreno, in July 17, he has asked Filipinos to stop relying on lockdowns, as the government should be proactive in monitoring the Delta variant which was becoming a looming threat during that time.

Lacson and Sotto have been upfront with their platform, which is to provide local government units (LGUs) more leeway and power in managing their localities — from development projects and even COVID-19 response.

The tandem believes that decentralizing the national government — which has become too top-heavy — would usher in development for depressed sectors and rural areas.


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