April 21, 2021 at 12:20 am
Ernesto M. Hilario
"The city has been making steady progress."
More than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the country, Taguig City stands out as a role model for other Metro Manila cities for its effective management and successful control of the spread of the coronavirus.
Indeed, Taguig has managed to do the impossible in surmounting many challenges and now leads the way for other cities and towns in the country to follow in coping with the pandemic.
The city has earned plaudits from the national leadership for its Covid-19 response. For instance, the government’s chief implementor of its policy on dealing with the deadly disease, Secretary Carlito Galvez, also the vaccine czar, once described the city as “a model city in terms of its effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As things now stand, Taguig has been making steady progress in battling the contagion with a ratio of more than zero but less than 20 cases per 100,000 population. This is due mainly to the concerted efforts of the residents and various organizations of Taguig. It also reflects the careful planning and hard work done by city officials since last year.
Taguig Mayor Lino Cayetano was awarded by the Department of Health with the COVID-19 Response Service Award in January for his “exemplary leadership and exceptional commitment in the implementation of Covid-19 response and ensuring health services in the community.”
The Cayetanos have been elected by their constituents to high office in the city for years now. And there’s no doubt that they have proven themselves more than equal to the challenges they have had to face since they took over the reins of public office in Taguig.
The serious economic crisis engendered by the coronavirus has not stopped the Cayetanos from making the city stand out for its successful efforts to contain the spread of the contagion. When the pandemic hit the country, it came as no surprise that the city was among the first in Metro Manila to establish a testing facility and launch various programs to assist its residents. We’re not surprised at all that Taguig continues to be one of the cities in Metro Manila with the lowest number of COVID-19 cases.
Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has tested the mettle of our leaders from the national down to the local levels. But the Taguig experience tells us that in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases very low, it is foresight and exemplary leadership that really matter.
The economic and social cost of the pandemic
More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the country, we are now in the throes of a health and economic crisis that’s not likely to end sometime soon.
The death toll from the coronavirus now stands at nearly 16,000, with active cases at more than 200,000. Recoveries from deadly disease now stand at more than 706,000.
The pandemic has overwhelmed our already fragile health care system, with the government and the private sector now scrambling to adequately deal with it by putting up more hospital beds and isolation facilities.
At the same time, vaccination procurement has proceeded at a slow pace, with just one percent of the population already inoculated out of the estimated 70-80 million Filipinos necessary to achieve herd immunity, which, at the current pace, we may well reach only by the end of 2023.
The health crisis has brought in its wake immense economic and social costs.
Last year, the Philippine economy posted its worst contraction since the postwar years with GNP growth falling by 9.6 percent.
The contagion plunged already poor and vulnerable families deeper into poverty. Filipinos already living above the poverty line, especially those in the informal economy, lost their incomes and joined the ranks of the poor. At the height of the pandemic last year, it was estimated that the Philippines “could add above six million new poor to the global [poverty] count.” The World Bank has warned that about 1.2 million more Filipinos could fall below the international poverty line for middle-income countries this year.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme late last year found that about 83 percent of Filipino households experienced a decrease in their household income, with 34 percent totally losing their source of income. Those who depend on unreliable sources of income suffered the worst.
The informal sector became worse off. About 42 percent of temporary or informal sector workers totally lost their income: slightly higher than the 35 percent of permanent jobholders who lost their jobs.
The national government took the right step in providing cash assistance to low-income households under the Social Amelioration Program or SAP to tide them over during the long lockdowns last year. But there’s a silver lining amid the dark clouds on the horizon.
The economic crisis also brought to the fore the bayanihan spirit of Filipinos. We must mention here the Maginhawa Community Pantry in Quezon City that started a novel initiative to provide food to the needy based on the principle of “give what you can afford, take only what you need”, and has since been replicated in other parts of the country. This is a compassionate and humanitarian act that we need today amid the pandemic. Non-government organizations and Church-based groups have been complementing government efforts to assist the poor and the disadvantaged sectors severely affected by the pandemic, and they deserve credit for doing so.