"The Makati Business Club says vaccination is not enough for reopening and recovery."
After being dormant for over a year and declining 10 percent in output last year, the Philippine economy is stirring back to life. That is largely because of the vaccination rollout by the government.
After a slow start and quickie deals that made some companies without cash, without any product, without any factory, without warehouses, and without even an office (except for an email address) multi-billionaires overnight (enabling their owners to buy cars that could only dream of owning before), the government’s pandemic management is getting more focused—granular, to use the generals’ fancy term.
I associate granules to small bits or pea brains. They are a good metaphor for small-mindedness. I am not saying some government people are small-minded. They are not. Anybody who could think of giving P11 billion worth of contracts to a nondescript company without checking its whereabouts is not small-minded.
The national capital, with its 14 million people, is under granular lockdown. It means vaccinated people can go out, eat, drink, shop, smell the flowers, or even go to church.
Frankly, the government has no business regulating the operations of churches. That is like mixing God and mammon, although the Vatican itself can indeed mix them up.
Pope Francis has just fired the Vatican’s top finance man and stripped him of his title cardinal. The once-holy man turns out to be practicing governance the old fashioned way—corrupt, just like many politicians, with habits like nepotism, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, and buying a luxury building in an upscale business district. There is even a scent of a woman. Do those sound familiar?
No wonder our very own Digong Duterte is absolutely convinced there is nothing wrong with the Pharmally deals worth over P11 billion.
The accused cardinal has reaffirmed his “absolute innocence.” The guy used to be even in charge of the office which decides who should be saints.
This is no different from a corrupt lawyer wanting to grab a choice Ombudsman post so he can decide who is guilty of corruption or not. It is like a perversion of what Jesus said: Those who are not guilty, please throw the first stone—“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. The Lord, however, was talking about adultery—not about stealing taxpayers’ money.
Did our President read about this cardinal? How come he uses almost the same language in professing innocence?
Back to the Philippine vaccination program.
Businessmen are not exactly happy with its progress. There are not enough vaccines. According to the influential (before Digong) Makati Business Club (MBC), the Philippines has procured vaccines equivalent to just 70 percent of its population. In contrast, Thailand has bought vaccines equivalent to 104 percent of its population, Vietnam 77 percent, although Indonesia has managed only 63 percent.
As of Sept. 20, 2021, the government had administered 41.793 million does—22.97 million in first doses (29.78 percent of target), and 18.82 million second doses (24.4 percent of target adults).
In the NCR, 14.873 million doses have been administered—8.27 million as first doses (84.6 percent of target), and 6.60 million as second doses (67.54 percent of target). You can say the national capital has reached herd immunity.
In a paper, MBC recommends vaccine allocation be strategic and efficient, more transparent to avoid any perception it is politicized, allowing LGUs and the private sector to buy more of their own vaccines; allowing businesses to mandate employees to be vaccinated; and for the government to consider requiring vaccination for its employees. MBC believes COVID will be with us for years to come.
MBC also calls on the government to accelerate vaccine purchases not only for the unvaccinated population but, as the science develops, for boosters. Boosters should probably go first to healthcare workers, whose immunity may be waning because they were the first to be vaccinated, MBC said.
MBC Chairman Edgar O. Chua suggests “we need to plan for the medium term: While the science is developing, we should assume we will need vaccination every year for the next few years. We need to organize ourselves to make sure we have the vaccines and can service everyone’s needs.”
As the government allows the economy to reopen, the business group strongly recommends improvement of the hospital, isolation, and quarantine networks; the One Hospital Command; a unified digital contact tracing system; vaccine certification; and testing. The group also calls on the government to resolve the issue of PhilHealth payments to hospitals, and improve healthcare worker pay and conditions to keep them from resigning, not bar them from leaving to work abroad.
“We cannot just vax our way to reopening and recovery,” Chua contends. “We need physical facilities, tech-enabled systems, financially-viable hospitals, and healthcare workers who are properly paid and provided for. We can’t fight COVID without the hospitals, we can’t run the hospitals without healthcare workers.”
Finally, MBC welcomes DepEd’s Sept 20 announcement of a pilot program for a return to classroom schooling with appropriate protocols. “Now the agenda is to get it started and accelerate its expansion. We need to get the kids back in the classrooms, especially those who are short on devices, internet connection, and other resources. This is about theirs and our country’s future,” Chua says.
MBC says the cost of remote schooling is far-reaching, including parents who have to leave work, a reduction in student’s future earnings, and a toll on decades of economic growth.
Cautions MBC: Vaccination is not enough for reopening and recovery. “Reopening without proper precautions can result in surging infection and illness, avoidable lockdowns, an extended pandemic, and even more opportunities for COVID to mutate.”