Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he tapped a private production crew to assist with the broadcast of his press briefing on Tuesday as Presidential Broadcast Staff-Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM) personnel have to undergo rapid antibody testing.
Roque made this statement after the post-State of the Nation Address (SONA) press conference originally scheduled at 11:30 a.m. was aired past noon.
The post-SONA press conference was supposed to feature Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, Agriculture Secretary William Dar and other officials but their attendance was moved to a later date.
“Ang ginagamit nating mga cameraman ay mga pribadong cameramen (The cameramen we are using now are private cameramen),” he said. “Covid or no Covid, tuloy po ang ating palitan ng impormasyon (Covid or no Covid, we will continue the exchange of information).”
In a statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Rachel Queenie Rodulfo explained that PBS-RTVM production crew had to undergo rapid antibody testing but did not come back in time for the briefing.
RTVM Executive Director Demic Pabalan, in a separate statement, echoed Rodulfo.
“Given the time consumed in coordinating with the [Presidential Security Group] and administering of rapid tests plus awaiting the results, the PBS-RTVM personnel got delayed in going back to the [New Executive Building] for the press briefing,” he said.
Pabalan bared that their office was placed on a lockdown from Tuesday until Aug. 11 after two employees tested positive for Covid-19 through reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) while four employees also tested positive via rapid antibody testing.
He said a total of 15 PBS-RTVM personnel were tested.
“As a precautionary measure and while awaiting the results of the confirmatory tests and further contact-tracing activities, no one, except personnel assigned for the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson (OPS) press briefing on Tuesday, 28 July 2020, were allowed to report for work,” Pabalan said.
Since RTVM personnel are considered among primary contacts to Covid-19 positive cases, he said his agency is implementing the “no negative results yielded, no coverage to be rendered” protocol.
“This is to avoid further and unwarranted transmission of the Covid-19 virus not only among its own personnel but the public as well,” he said.
He said a “back-up team” from the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson was able to broadcast using the equipment―camera, audio control and microwave feed―prepared by the PBS-RTVM personnel.
The Malacañan’s New Executive Building houses the PCOO, the OPS, and the Malacañang Press Briefing Room.
As of Tuesday, 1:35 p.m., a total of 32 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among personnel of PCOO proper and its attached agencies.
PCOO Assistant Secretary JV Arcena said there are 22 active Covid-19 cases and one death in PCOO Proper, one death and two active cases in APO Production Unit, two cases in Philippine Information Agency, and one active case and one recovery in PTV-4. (PNA)