'Only reactionary': Galvez, other IATF members slammed for neglecting Mindanao amid COVID-19 surge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 16) — Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez insisted on Wednesday that Mindanao was "neglected" in the national government's vaccine allocation amid rise in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Rodriguez slammed the lack of urgency in the response of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. and other members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to their plea to increase the supply of doses in Cagayan de Oro.

"First, I don't listen to Vince (Dizon) nor Secretary Galvez anymore," a frustrated Rodriguez said. "They don't respond to our letters."

"I don’t know about the other places of Mindanao but yes, we have received 35,100 (doses yesterday)," he also said. "But I have to be mad at all of them at the committee on Mindanao affairs. That’s the problem, it is a reaction. Not an action."

At the hearing of the House Committee on Mindanao Affairs on Monday, Rodriguez said he wrote to Galvez on May 12 and May 20, following reports from the OCTA Research group that Cagayan de Oro was among the cities considered an area of concern due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

He said he did not receive any response until he addressed the matter in the hearing.

Rodriguez was referring to over 35,000 Pfizer doses recently delivered to Cagayan de Oro. Sec. Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, also told The Source that another 21,000 Sinovac doses were sent to the city, totaling 56,000 doses.

Dizon added that Cagayan de Oro, being the center of Northern Mindanao, will receive "a lion's share of doses" as supply stabilizes in the coming weeks. He said over 420,000 doses were already delivered to Northern Mindanao alone.

"Hindi naman sa nakakalimutan," Dizon said. "Wala pong nakakalimutang area. Pero ang gusto lang naming ipaliwanag sa aming (It's not that they are being neglected. We do not intend to neglect any area. But we just want to explain to our) local leaders ay right now, there is still a scarcity of vaccines,"

"But we want to assure that every vaccine will be distributed as fast as we can to those who need it the most," he added.

The testing czar also said the national government is doing "everything in its power" to send vaccines and to support local officials dealing with surges in all parts of the country.

The Health Department is closely monitoring the Visayas and Mindanao due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The OCTA Research group also said provinces such as Negros Oriental, Leyte and Agusan del Norte are having a significant increase in new cases, while Iloilo, Cagayan, Misamis Oriental, Negros Oriental, and Agusan del Norte have reported high healthcare utilization rates.

READ: DOH, OCTA monitor Visayas, Mindanao over increase in COVID-19 cases

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.