Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday announced plans to mobilize reservists with medical background to help healthcare workers in the efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
He made the announcement during a virtual press briefing shortly after the assumption ceremonies of newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay.
Initially, President Rodrigo Duterte wanted all military reservists mobilized but Lorenzana said he suggested to the Chief Executive that only those with medical background as they are the ones urgently needed in the fight against Covid-19.
“It will be good if we can bring them to active service so that they can help in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.
At present, Lorenzana said the AFP has 380 medical officers as reservists and another 5,368 enlisted reservist personnel with some medical training.
He added that he has already directed AFP headquarters to determine who among these individuals can be called into active duty.
Lorenzana also clarified that those reservists already working in the medical field and helping in Covid-19 containment efforts will not be activated.
“They are already doing their work so they will not be called to active duty,” he said.
He added that once the DND and AFP identify reservists who can be called for medical duty, Duterte will be informed and a recommendation will be made to call them to active duty.
“Now once we identify them, we will make the recommendation to the President to call them to active duty since this needs the President’s approval because this will entail some funding while they are on active duty,” Lorenzana said.
He added there are also plans to improve AFP medical facilities so that these can support hospitals that are fully occupied.
In the virtual briefing, Gapay said they will seek the help of private hospitals affiliated as AFP reserves to help in the national effort against Covid-19.
“There are private hospitals out there that are considered as affiliated reserves and they will also be mobilized to help out in this total national effort (on) the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. So (the) direction will be also a comprehensive one, total effort, all hands on deck, all force multipliers and those reservists which the Armed Forces could mobilize will be asked to help out and contribute to really address this pressing requirements and concerns as far as Covid pandemic is concerned,” he said.
Gapay also urged Filipinos to unite as one people and join the military as it battles terrorism and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gapay, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986, replaced his classmate, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. as AFP chief, after the latter reached the mandatory retirement age of 56. Santos took over the AFP in January, replacing Gen. Noel Clement, who stepped down also after reaching the mandatory retirement age.
Gapay was also the 61st Philippine Army commander before his appointment as AFP chief.
“While this year we have seen our AFP respond to terrorism and the impacts of Covid-19, these threats continue to challenge the capabilities of our Armed Forces, impede the way of life and diminish our nation’s peace and security. Thankfully, the AFP’s efforts are greatly appreciated by the people given its 90 percent satisfaction rating among government agencies,” he added.*PNA