News Release

Palace maintains current age restriction

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr cited today, January 26, 2021, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s decision to maintain the current age restriction in view of the new coronavirus variant, saying that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is a policy-making body that serves as an extension of the President.

Secretary Roque further stressed that it is the Chief Executive who ultimately decides on matters under the jurisdiction of the IATF, underscoring that “whatever the President decided prevails.”

The Palace official said that the Chief Executive respected the decision of the Economic Team and the IATF on the relaxation of age restrictions. However, because of reports that the new variant may affect underaged children, President Duterte deemed to stop the implementation of the IATF recommendation and asked the policy-making body to study further the new variant.

“Habang wala pa tayong masyadong alam tungkol sa new variant, stay home na muna, bagama’t sinabi nga ni Presidente naintindihan ko naman na kung bakit kinakailangan ganyan magdesisyon,” said Secretary Roque.

The President’s spokesperson added that the President’s decision is rooted on the President being a father and grandfather as well. “Ang kanyang pangunahing concern ay pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng ating mga kabataan. So yun lang po yun. Hanggang hindi pa tayo masyadong maraming alam sa bagong variant, stay home po ang mga bata,” said Sec. Roque.

Roque, who is concurrent IATF spokesperson, also said that there is no issue with regard to the President revoking the IATF’s recommendation. “IATF was created by the President to assist him as recommendatory body. In fact, the IATF has no legislative foundation other than exercise of executive power,” Sec. Roque remarked.

The Palace spokesman also underscored that the President also revoked then an IATF recommendation, the pilot face-to-face classes, and all because of the new variant of COVID-19. “So sa tingin ko naman po maiintindihan ng taumbayan kung bakit ganito ang desisyon ni Presidente because we dont know enough of this new variant,” Roque said.

On maintaining the current age restrictions and its long-term effect on the economy, Roque said that it is best to wait for more information on the new variant and hope that the halting of the age restriction is not permanent.

He also remarked that a vaccine against COVID-19 is the long-term solution to the problem. “Nandiyan na po ang bakuna ‘wag nating kalimutan po yan ‘no. Bakuna po yung solusyon, at any time in February magsisimula na po tayo,” Roque said.

On another matter, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) President Dante Gierran asked the support and understanding of the public as the state-run agency continues to ensure and provide healthcare benefits for Filipinos.

Atty. Gierran said that the PhilHealth has enough funds from collections and its reserved fund to continue its operations. Gierran also underscored the PhilHealth’s deferment of a contributions hike for its members given President Duterte’s directive to not increase members’ premium contributions at this time of pandemic. ### OPS-PCOO