The 3rd of a series of KTOP-COVID webinars by DOST-NRCP featured the results of the study on Content Analysis of Government Policies and Issuances Regarding the 2020 Pandemic by Associate Professor Laufred I. Hernandez, Department of Behavioral Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines Manila and NRCP Member, Social Sciences (Division VIII) last July 21, 2020.

In coming up with the content analysis of government policies, Assoc. Prof. Hernandez conducted a comprehensive desk review of government orders, policies, issuances and/or legal instrumentalities pertaining to the prevention and control of COVID-19 in the Philippines. There had been 55 resolutions on policy directions issued by the Interagency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID), 78 policy guidelines issued by the Department of Health and more than 100 local government ordinances issued since January until July this year.

Based on the results of the study, Assoc. Prof. Hernandez believes that the most important policy should emanate from the local government units because each local government has their own way to mitigate COVID-19. He also noted that the government approach in combating COVID-19 has been very reactive and more in population control rather than giving emphasis to go testing in order to locate and isolate the virus from spreading further. On the other hand, RA 11469 or the Bayanihan Act’s initial implementation steps show that people, contrary to what the word ‘bayanihan’ as bayan implies, are still left out in the fight against the virus.

Overall, Assoc. Prof. Hernandez recommends that there should be policy alternatives based on socio-political and economic scenarios in mitigating the disease. Policies should have a human face and they need to be part of the authors of any given policies. The RA 11469 or the law which says that Bayanihan is needed for the nation to HEAL AS ONE is becoming unreachable unless the country and the people should first ACT AS ONE.

But in recommending policy directions from this time on when flattening of the COVID-19 curve has yet to happen, he emphasized on the following:

  • First, policies should and always been based on science.
  • Second, policies are not intended to be political instruments but social pegs in having better lives – a direction towards well-being.
  • Third, an active civil society in terms of policy development (from policy making process and policy monitoring and evaluation) is an essential actor.
  • Fourth, the weakest link of Philippine policies on COVID19 is the inadequate health infrastructure (public and private health) including its cross-cutting dimensions.
  • Fifth, examining policy responses for COVID-19 should take into account different levels of decision-making.

In conclusion, Assoc. Prof. Hernandez said that while the scientific community strives to find effective treatments for COVID-19, it has also the imperative to map and characterize the diversity of policy responses, so that adequate information and lessons learned can be shared with policymakers facing different stages of the epidemic.

DOST-NRCP’s newly elected President Dr. Gregorio E.H. Del Pilar gave the Opening Remarks. He shared the topic on the contribution of open science in addressing COVID-19 presented during the webinar of the International Science Council (ISC), of which the NRCP is a member. According to the Global COVID-19 Index developed by Dato’ Sri Idris Jala, 184 countries are given 2 scores each in terms of severity index and recovery index. Also accordingly, there are six (6) critical success factors in addressing COVID-19 as follows: 1) Testing; 2) Tracing; 3) Lockdown or movement control; 4) Easing restrictions; 5) Risk communication; and 6) Community engagement. The last factor pertains to public participation and the first 5 focus on leadership or a government’s initiatives to address COVID-19.

The 3rd DOST-NRCP KTOP-COVID was graced by DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Pena. He gave an inspiring message especially to the NRCP Members saying “In policy-making, it is not only the mathematical sciences or the physical sciences that we are talking about, but science that includes the social science aspects. Policy can change because of the changing environment. Although decision makers would sometimes stick to one policy that they have already announced, it is not bad to change a policy if it is really necessary.” He lauded the NRCP for taking the lead in COVID-related social researches. He emphasized that social science is valuable, especially at a time like this when people’s feedback, perceptions, situations and participation in programs should be considered.

“With so many legislations being passed, we need NRCP’s analysis to see their relevance, timeliness and the necessity of those pieces or actions,” Secretary de la Pena added.

The webinar was attended by 329 participants from all over the country from both private and state colleges and universities, regional government agencies, 1 from the US and 1 from Hongkong. The other government agencies that sent participants are: DOH, DepEd, CHED, DILG, DOJ. Others followed the webinar through the livestream at NRCP’s FB Page, Research Pod. DOST-NRCP Executive Director Dr. Marieta Banez Sumagaysay ably facilitated the 3rd KTOP-COVID webinar.