Palace goes on defensive as PH leads in rise of virus cases in Western Pacific
MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday, June 29, continued to assert that the Duterte administration was "winning" the battle against the coronavirus outbreak as he snubbed data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showing the Philippines recently observed the highest number of new infections in the Western Pacific region.
In a press briefing on Monday, Roque sought to prove the government was "in control" of the outbreak as he selected different data and showcased a list of 10 countries across Asia where the Philippines was in the 6th spot in terms of the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
Using this list, Roque said: "Now, ang sabi ng WHO tayo daw ang pinakamabilis na tumaas na kaso sa buong Western Pacific region. Totoo ba ho ito? We beg to disagree."
(Now, the WHO said we have the fastest rise in cases in the whole Western Pacific region. Is this true? We beg to disagree.)
Referring to the list of 10 countries he presented, Roque further noted findings that showed the Philippines in the 6th spot meant the government was "confident" it took the right measures to address the outbreak.
"Of course dahil sa findings na ito (because of these findings), we are very confident that we have done the correct steps…. Again, I am saying we are not perfect, but I think we did the best that we can do under the circumstance," he added.
Why this matters: Roque's list was different from the WHO Western Pacific region's data that focused on the increase in cases in the region – and not total cases per country – since June 16.
WHO data showed that from June 16 to June 27, coronavirus cases in the Philippines increased by 8,143, placing it ahead of countries included in the region. The number is also larger than new cases recorded in the same period in China (302), where the virus was first reported.
Aside from this, the WHO's findings involved 19 of the 27 countries in its jurisdiction, while half of the countries on Malacañang's list were not part of the WHO Western Pacific region.
The 5 countries on Malacañang's list which were not part of the WHO Western Pacific region were India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia – the top 4 countries on the Palace's list – as well as Thailand (top 9).
Asked about the seeming mismatch of countries identified, Roque dismissed this as he said all countries were still in Asia.
"Well I'm not going to go nitpicking into this, but as far as I know, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are still Asian countries," he said.
Addressing growing cases: Lawmakers earlier urged the government to pay attention to strengthening testing capacity and contract tracing efforts following the WHO's findings.
The country's testing capacity and contract tracing efforts remain limited due to operational issues such as lack of personnel and lack of supplies.