"This virus is the biggest challenge of the Duterte administration."
Santa Banana, more than the terrorists in Mindanao, the homegrown communist movement and even President Duterte's war on illegal drugs and government corruption, the dreaded novel coronavirus has become the greatest challenge of this administration!
The spread of the virus has caused hysteria and Sinophobia among Filipinos, leading to drastic action by the government.
Some self-styled experts may have criticized the decision of the President to ban the entry of all Chinese from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. I believe, however, that the decision of the President was wise and timely. My gulay, a knee-jerk reaction to the spread of the virus could have just created hysteria and panic.
One thing we should avoid is Sinophobia. I don't know if it's fake news, but I have been told that in some parts of Metro Manila, some restaurants are denying entry to Chinese nationals for fear of getting infected. I had the same feeling when my family went out to dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant for a taste of Peking duck. Santa Banana, it was a Sunday, and yet only four tables were occupied.
I cannot blame people, even the local Chinese themselves. If you read the newspapers or go on social media, you would really get a sense of the impact of the dreaded virus.
This is why I believe the Duterte administration should undertake a massive education and information campaign on what to do and what not to do. The safety of 110 million Filipinos is at risk, Santa Banana!
And if we are fearful, imagine what it must be like for squatters who have no idea about hygiene at all!
Duterte should also undertake measures in avoiding Sinophobia or racism.
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The ban on the entry of Chinese from the mainland actually has a double effect. It can help contain the spread of the virus, and it can minimize the entry of drug cartels to the Philippines. They are also responsible for the entry of Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian prostitutes whose clients are mainly Chinese POGO workers.
Raids by the National Bureau of Investigation and the police in Metro Manila hotels have shown the proliferation of prostitution dens. Authorities must explain how they came here in the first place. But the fact that Chinese mafias have made the country their playground tells us that they have to be stopped.
I urge the Duterte administration to do away with the “visa upon arrival” scheme for the Chinese. We know how many mysterious things can happen at the Bureau of Immigration.
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It stands to reason that the Senate should be consulted by Malacañang on President Duterte's knee-jerk reaction of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement just because the US visa of Senator Bato dela Rosa was canceled.
I find no logic at all to this move, since the visa of Dela Rosa has absolutely nothing to do with it. It was, after all, the Senate that ratified the agreement allowing American forces to come to the Philippines to conduct joint military exercises with our Armed Forces!
The Senate itself admitted that the President is the constitutionally mandated architect of Philippine foreign relations, even as it (the Senate) was the one that ratified the VFA.
Admittedly, the reaction of Duterte should be corrected. But the VFA should also be reviewed especially since it provides that the US should take custody of the offender when American soldiers commit a crime here. This does not make sense and is completely disadvantageous to the Philippines.
The Senate should also review the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
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It is good that local government units have been given the power to decide what is best for their communities in connection with nCoV.
It is the local government that knows best on what must be done. They should also join the education and information campaign of the national government against racism.
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Philippine tourism will certainly be hit. People are hesitating to travel abroad. Just how long the anxiety will last is a matter of speculation.
Another sector that is taking a hit is the hospitality sector. Hotel bookings have been canceled. Likewise for the restaurant business.
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My apologies to Japanese Embassy Consul General Atsushi Kuwabara-san for my failure to mention him among the guests who graced the launch of my book last week.
I also forgot to thank Carla Diaz de Rivera of Brainstorm who was responsible for the backdrop, lighting and video of the affair.