After the Senate and PHAPI, who’s next to ask for Duque’s head?

Don’t change horses in midstream.

US President Abraham Lincoln

This explains why Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is dilly-dallying in replacing Health Secretary Francisco Duque who had been committing blunders in the battle against Coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III  (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Health Secretary Francisco Duque (Source: PCOO)
Continue reading “After the Senate and PHAPI, who’s next to ask for Duque’s head?”

Why the mandatory rapid testing for workers is a waste of time and money

There are proposals circulating that the Covid-19 rapid testing be made as a mandatory requirement for return to work clearance of our workers. But while the proposal has good intentions, it somehow misses the real objective of why we are opting for Covid-19 testing in the first place.

Continue reading “Why the mandatory rapid testing for workers is a waste of time and money”

Flattening the curve or feeding the ego?

On May 5 and 6, the Department of Health announced that the Philippines is beginning to flatten the Coronavirus disease-19 (Covid-19) curve. Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire and Dr. John Wong, an epidemiologist with the Inter-Agency Task Force’s (IATF), said that the country was able to slowdown the increase of Covid-19 cases.

But, has the Philippines really started to flatten the curve?

Continue reading “Flattening the curve or feeding the ego?”

How a simple Covid-19 case exposed the issues affecting the LGUs

We are in a battle with an unseen enemy — the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Unfortunately, our government structures at the local level are not that ready and this sad truth was revealed when two medical doctors and a lawyer entered Catanduanes, an island-province in the Bicol Region, a couple of weeks ago.

The entry of the three stirred the social media with harsh words hurled at the local officials. This turned to chaos when one of the doctors tested positive with Covid-19 and a social media uproar when President Rodrigo Duterte included Catanduanes in the list of areas where the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will be extended to May 15. This prompted Acting Vice Governor Shirley Abundo and the local health officials to be on the defensive mode and issue public statements on the incident.

But while the social media stir and the ensuing chaos were a bad thing, there are also lessons that we can distill from the same. First, these indicate that the people of Catanduanes are also humans like us, shares fears with us. Who is not afraid of the Coronavirus, anyway? Even the American conservatives who are staging demonstrations against the lockdown are afraid only that they fear more either the curtailment of their civil liberties or their economic activities.

Second, the blame-games and the pin-pointing indicates that the people are also aware only that their information is not enough, or they have selective information. Based on the guidelines, medical doctors and those at the “frontlines” are allowed to travel as long as they show their identification cards. AG Abundo also explained that the doctors are expected to augment the medical personnel in the province.

The lack or selective information clearly points out the third issue — the ineffective information dissemination and education campaign of the local governments. Even the information about the entry came after the fact thus fueling suspicions that the local governments have double standards in implementing the guidelines. If the uproar can be done in the social media, the provincial and local governments couldn’t have tried enough to proactively share the information about the virus, the guidelines and the things that are happening in the island-province.

Lastly, the incident also means that the people lacks trust on the local health system. If there was trust, the people may not care as to whoever enters the island-province. Unfortunately, it is the other way around even if two of the three who entered are medical doctors.

To date, the Covid-19 positive patient is now cleared after a series of testings and the people of Catanduanes are hopeful that by April 30, they will be off the list with extended ECQ. But lessons from this case, however, should not be set aside as these also reflect the situation of most, if not all, the local government units in the country and the behavior of their respective constituencies.

Addressing the food accessibility problem under ECQ

So what if there is P5,000 to P8,000 cash assistance from the Philippine government if there is nothing to buy?

Just a few days ago, we witnessed a group of citizens protesting for the lack of food. The group was rounded up by government forces with 21 of the protesters charged with various cases — including the violation of the “Heal as One Act” or the Republic Act No. 11469. Unfortunately, prison and insensible government action will never fill a hungry tummy. Take it as a lesson from the French Revolution.

Similarly, distributing money will not solve the issue. Some of those who joined the guerilla warfare in the Bicol Region during the World War II were either insulted or disgruntled because a basketful of Japanese paper money that could not even buy a cup of rice. So before the hungry tummies trigger a major political disruption, let us address the issue being complicated by the enhanced community quarantine and the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19): the lack of food.

Fortunately, there is ample supply of food according to the Department of Agriculture. Fortunately, too, the government has established mechanisms for an unhampered delivery of supplies. What is in paper, however, is not always true in practice. Hence, while harvests are rotting in farms, food shortage is looming in the country. The reason: transporting the agricultural products to the markets and consumers.

Among those supposedly exempted in checkpoints are cargo trucks and delivery vehicles carrying food products. The problem is, the guidelines are not clearly understood. Checkpoints were hard to deal with making this a bottleneck discouraging buyers and transporters.

So what could be done to address this?

  1. Translate the policies into easily digestible pieces in local and English languages. The fact that the policies are interpreted in different ways simply means they are not clearly understood.
  2. One common complaint is that empty vehicles and trucks are not allowed to pass in checkpoints. There are people manning the checkpoints who argued that only vehicles carrying food products are allowed — as if there is an endless supply of cargo vehicles from the farms, and as if there are sufficient parking spaces in the cities. To address this, a business permit should be enough to prove that the vehicle is used to carry food products, empty or not. It would be better if the Land Transportation Office also get its act and issue RFIDs to these cargo vehicles.
  3. Provide a special lane where cargo vehicles are a priority.
  4. To address the fear of human as COVID carriers, the Masbate province’s practice could be copied.When cargo trucks from different points of Luzon are loaded in roll-on roll-off vessels (ROROs) in Sorsogon ports, the drivers stay behind. Drivers in Masbate City unload the trucks from the ROROs, the government disinfects them, and the vehicles are eventually driven to their points of destination. Similar arrangements can also be done with cargo vehicles going in and out of the National Capital Region with one driver driving only inside the NCR, and another outside. The expressway toll gates should also provide disinfection and quarantine facilities for both the trucks and the drivers.

Do you know of any other ways to address this supply-chain issue? Feel free to drop a comment below.