By Ismael D. Tabije

PH performance in global fight against Covid-19

OF late, there have been so many commentaries saying, in so many words, that the Philippines has been a failure in the fight against Covid-19. What is the real score?

There are so many factors that can be used to gauge the performance of countries in the fight against Covid-19: (a) no. of tests, (b) no. of cases, (c) no. of tests as a percentage of the total population, (d) the number of cases as a percentage of tests, (e) no. of cases as a percentage of the total population, (f) number of recoveries as a percentage of the number of cases, (g) number of deaths as a percentage of cases and (h) number of deaths as a percentage of the population, to name some.

For me, the more important objective in the fight is PREVENTING DEATHS. And such is best measured in terms of fatality rate – the no. of deaths as a percentage of the total population. Comparing countries, the lower the fatality rate, the higher is the performance

So how does the Philippines fare vis-à-vis the other countries worldwide?

Based on statistics culled from worldometers.info as of August 15, 2020, the world average is 98 deaths per 1 million population. The Philippines has only 24 deaths per 1 million population.

How do we compare in relation to some other countries, especially vis-à-vis the more developed, richer, and more medically-advanced ones? Belgium (856 deaths per 1 million population), Spain (612), UK (609), Italy (583), Sweden (572), USA (518), Brazil (501), France (466), Mexico (433), Netherlands (360), Ireland (359), Canada (239), Switzerland (230), Luxembourg (195), Portugal (174), Argentina (122), Kuwait (115), Germany (11), Russia (107), Denmark (107), Monaco (102), Bahrain (99), Saudi Arabia (96), Austria (81), Israel (72), to name a few.

So far, so good.

What about the recent news reports in some Indonesian and Singaporean newspapers that the Philippines is now the worst Covid-19 case in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific? Let’s look at the statistics of all countries (some countries have no statistics on the source website):


Notice that almost all Southeast Asian and Western Pacific countries, including the Philippines, as a group, are some of the top-performing countries worldwide. So even if the Philippines is admittedly one of the worst-performing in the Southeast Asian and Western Pacific region, the fact is that it is much better off than all the other countries in the world.

Let me further argue this matter via an analogy. If there is a board exam with 1,000 examinees and you are No. 10 in the ranking, is it right to highlight the fact that you are the lowest among the top 10? NO. Rightfully, you should be highlighted as the top 10 among 1000 examinees. That’s how the performance of the Philippines should be viewed in all fairness.

So what explains our success in preventing more deaths? Since we can’t claim to have done many tests due to funding constraints and we don’t have sufficient medical capabilities as compared to the other rich but poor-performing countries, the only way to explain such successful performance is that our other strategies have kept down our fatality rate better than the others, such as the successful implementation of the lockdown-quarantine scheme by the government and the people’s compliance and cooperation with the advice of the medical experts and government to always wear masks, wash our hands frequently, maintain social distancing, avoid gatherings, sanitize our homes, offices and business places, implementation of curfew hours, among others.

So, does President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the IATF, and the government, in general, deserve all the brickbats and unfair criticisms despite such above-average global performance?

You be the judge.


About the Columnist

Image of Ismael D. Tabije

Ismael D. Tabije is an International Development Consultant whose clients include the UN, WB, ADB, EU, FAO, and JICA.