“Serving the people, securing the land.” Such is the byword of the uniformed men and women who are in the frontlines safeguarding the nation from all forms of threats.
It is the same rallying cry that continues to inspire Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. as he takes on, perhaps, one of the biggest responsibilities in his storied career. He was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the Chief Implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) in charge of overseeing the country’s National Action Plan (NAP) against the COVID-19 pandemic.
This role also entails enforcing the policies issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. This puts Sec. Galvez at the helm of the government’s operational arm in confronting and mitigating the impacts of the long-drawn health crisis.
Sec. Carlito Galvez heads the National Task Force in implementing the country’s action plan to combat the COVID-19.
A retired Chief of Staff, he is no stranger to daunting tasks that come with leadership roles. Galvez was the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) where he led the liberation of Marawi City from the hands of the ISIS-inspired Maute group. He was also the Chairman of the Government of the Philippines Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH), a mechanism under the GPH and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace process that ensures potential situations of conflict between the two parties are resolved immediately. In 2018, his name made headlines again upon being selected as the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.
In a crisis where critical elements are at play, Sec. Galvez’s duty as the Chief Implementer involves prioritizing the welfare of millions of Filipinos, particularly in protecting their health and safety. This job, he admits, is a challenging one, as there are times when he feels the weight of the job on his shoulders given its scope and magnitude.
Despite these, what prevails is his drive to serve his countrymen. Sec. Galvez recalled how he did not have second thoughts when the President offered him the post of Presidential Peace Adviser and, later, as Chief Implementer.
Sec. Galvez addresses the public and the media
“I knew that the position would give me another opportunity to serve our fellow Filipinos after my stint with the military. This was the same feeling I had when the President appointed me to be the NAP’s Chief Implementer. I knew that the job would be a very challenging one, but I wholeheartedly accepted it,” he shared.
Game Plan Towards a Better Normal for Filipinos
Filipinos from all walks of life have grappled with the impact of the pandemic over the past months. The NTF thus set in motion a multi-pronged plan to address issues across all fronts.
According to Sec. Galvez, one of the key steps undertaken by the task force is to ensure the NAP’s effective implementation at the national level, and cascading it to the local level. This involves engaging the public and obtaining their full support.
The NAP is anchored on the End-to-End “T3” Strategy which means trace, test, and treat. It is divided into various lines of effort, namely prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and reintegration, which will enable the nation to adapt to the new normal.
Now on its second phase, the NAP seeks to strike a balance between ensuring the health and safety of the people and reviving the nation’s economy.
Working closely with partners and relevant institutions to carry out necessary interventions to address the health crisis
While the road to recovery might seem elusive, Sec. Galvez stated that the strong collaboration among stakeholders brings the Philippines closer to its goal. Case in point, the task force’s partnership with the private sector and local government units paved the way for the donation of more than two million personal protective equipment to frontliners, and the establishment of testing laboratories, swabbing centers, and quarantine facilities across the regions.
“We are focused on further strengthening the government’s partnership with the private sector, whose invaluable contribution has enabled us to provide better protection for our front liners and establish more health quarantine facilities nationwide,” he said.
Monitoring the situation and putting in place measures to curb the spread of the virus
He emphasized how the government continues to ramp up the country’s testing and contact tracing capabilities, provide support to local businesses, and encourage greater public participation in the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.
Further, Sec. Galvez understands the plight of Filipinos as they face an unseen, formidable enemy. He recognizes that everyone’s lives have been altered one way or another in the transition to a new normal.
With the many challenges the nation is facing, he stressed that he, along with his colleagues in the National Task Force, are allies of the people. Most of all, he, too, is a Filipino who must face the day-to-day challenges brought about by the global health crisis.
“Aside from being a former soldier and peace worker, I am also a husband, father, and brother. This is also what motivates me to do my job to the best of my ability. I know that what I am doing will not only have an impact on the people that I serve, but also on my family. I always ask myself the question ‘Will this measure or policy protect my family?” Sec. Galvez said.
Amidst all the challenges, his message to all Filipinos is one of optimism and encouragement.
The fight is far from over but he believes that people must not lose hope—the Philippines can get back on its feet if everyone continues to unite and help each other.
This is the reason, Galvez said, why the government is now focused on addressing the situation of the nation’s most vulnerable sectors, especially locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who have been infected with the disease.
“The government is doing its best to help our LSIs and ROFs. They have gone through a lot. It is our responsibility not only to ensure their safe return to their home provinces, but also to help them recover from the trauma they have experienced,” he pointed out.
According to the chief implementer, aside from addressing the health conditions of these LSIs and ROFs, there is also a need to put equal importance on the state of their mental health which has also been affected by the health crisis.
“We must not only help them recover physically, but also assist them in coping with the psychological impact of the disease. The physical and mental well-being of patients should go hand in hand,” he stressed.
Galvez noted that LGUs will play a crucial role in this effort, as they will have to help create an environment where LSIs and ROFs will feel secure upon their return to their communities and not feel discriminated upon.
He said that it is through this integrated and holistic strategy that the government hopes to contain the spread of the disease, identify, isolate and treat patients as quickly as possible, and prevent the further loss of lives.
Sec. Galvez has this to say, “Our nation and the rest of the world are facing a crisis like we have never seen before. It has not only impacted our health, but also our social order, economy, peace and security. All aspects of our life as citizens have been upended, as we undergo the difficult process of coping with these changes. I have no doubt, however, that we shall overcome this pandemic, and emerge better, stronger and more resilient than before. We can do this by working together and looking out for each other. Tapang. Malasakit. Bayanihan. Together, we heal as one, we recover as one.”