By Jun Ledesma

Revving the engine of economy

FOUR-month-period is long enough for one to realize that in this fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 9Covid-19) it takes only a good dose of discipline, obedience to very basic health protocols to adapt to the new normal and survive. We are learning it the hard way. Those who fault the Duterte government for the rise of positive cases and cavalierly cite why Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, and China were able to contain the spread of the disease pronto conveniently forget the differences of culture and discipline in those countries from ours. Cases of Covid-19 resurface now and then but the spread is contained in no time at all.

President Rodrigo Duterte succinctly describes what’s wrong with us. While he describes his fellow Cebuanos as “gahi ug ulo” (hard-headed) truth is we see these incorrigible traits all over. We have this bunch who dub themselves as PH PRIDE Protesters. They are the types who are impervious of the consequences of their acts. While the government issues simple directives as wearing masks and social distancing and staying home if nothing of importance requires one to go out, they gathered themselves in strange defiance. They were of course removed from the streets and were given a mental counsel after which they were released. Before they finally disperse, however, they had a photo taken, again displaying their defiance of social distancing and then uploaded this on Facebook threatening that they will file cases against law enforcers.

Four months had elapsed and now we come face to face with reality. Finance Sec. Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez has told us the brutal fact. Covid-19 will be around and will be with us until a vaccine will be discovered. That our economy cannot remain in stagnation lest it will lead us to a catastrophe much worse than the pandemic. As head of Duterte’s economic team, his is the Herculean task of revving up the engine of the economy and to do that production and movement of the labor force in Metro Manila and CALABARZON must resume. He cited that the huge percentage of our economy comes from these regions. And this is true elsewhere in the growth centers of the country.

Are we ready to grapple with the challenges? The answer is YES! True that the number of Covid-19 cases has increased what is happening in the ground gives us the confidence that we can slowly push up the economy to a modest performance. The signs are there and I think that Secretary Dominguez has seen these all. We have provinces and cities where the local government units are able to address the threats of contamination. There are barangays in the crowded communities in Metro Manila where Covid-19 cases have declined if not altogether disappeared. There were recurring cases but systematic contact tracing and testing were immediately done and if lockdowns become necessary then it is strictly enforced.

We have to absorb lessons from what is experienced in Cebu City. The City officials and business community and other organizations amidst the rising incidence of Covid-19 cases that placed them under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) demanded that the City be classified under General Community Quarantine (GCQ). The City Mayor takes pride that while cases are on the rise they have a very high percentage of the recovery. The Inter-Agency Task Force refused to heed their plea and they proceeded anyway with the kind of lifestyle that they insist they are entitled to. And so Cebu City in less than 15 days became the epicenter of Covid-19 cases in the country.

The revival of our economy, which was among the best in Southeast Asia, is achievable but it requires a joint community undertaking. We are seeing the emergence of a New Normal. It’s all hands on deck. It starts with the basic barangay units enforcing social distancing, wearing of masks and proper hygiene (washing of hands and disinfection with alcohol), enforcement of curfews when needed. They too must have the lead role in contact tracing. The city and provincial governments through their respective Regional Inter-Agency Task Force should ensure that the hospital front liners are provided with an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment and for the hospitals to have sufficient isolation and testing facilities. I must stress here that the first phalanx of our war against Covid-19 are our doctors, nurses, and other health workers and therefore they should be provided with enough support. This is the simple role that the Department of Health can do now so hopefully Sec. Francisco Duque can perform this task.

A revitalized economy means jobs and resuscitation of small and medium-size industries. The transport sector is back on the road but gone are the days of jam-packed jeepneys and buses. Airlines are flying their routes. Restaurants and parlors will be opened but with limitations. Factories will start to churn more goods and items on grocery shelves. Duterte emphasizes, “dahan dahan lang”.

So we want to be like Vietnam, Thailand, Korea pr China? Then let us observe discipline and obedience to simple rules and protocols. Forget the show-off PH Pride, they are contemptuous imitation of America’s suicidal masses which are in denial of the fact that daily 50 - thousands get infected and there seems to be no prospects that the scourge will stop. As President Duterte puts it, “Let’s not be complacent. Huwag matigas ang ulo.”





About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.