The Asian Voice

The incompetence of the Philippines Covid-19 response: Inquirer columnist

The writer says the incompetence of the Philippines government has led to the current delay in managing Covid-19.

A pharmacist puts a Covid-19 vaccine into a syringe at the Medical City hospital in Metro Manila on Feb 18, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - At a meeting with President Duterte and other Cabinet members in Davao City last Monday (Feb 15), "vaccine tsar" General Carlito Galvez Jr. declared that "we are ready for the vaccines."

A dry run was conducted on the movement of the vaccines from the airport to the warehouse and storage facilities with time cheques being made. "All good," he said. Unfortunately last Friday, Galvez apologised, feeling embarrassed as he asked himself, "Where are the vaccines? That is the question." It turns out the government has not signed a single deal with any supplier and we have no idaea when this will be done and how soon delivery can take place.

Last month, General Galvez reported that we should have one to three million doses of Sinovac from China sometime in February. We are now on the last few days of the month and it turns out there may be no delivery until an emergency use authorisation (EUA) is issued by the Food and Drug Administration. Not that we are eagerly looking forward to the arrival of Sinovac.

A few days ago, we received the following letter from one of our readers. It reflects the fears, the frustrations, and the lack of confidence of our people with the government response to the Covid-19 crisis facing the nation.

I wish to share these thoughts with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and General Galvez for their appreciation and possible enlightenment:

"I am 78 years old with what the doctors call several comorbidities, and so if I get infected with Covid-19, my chance of survival is pretty slim. The Inquirer headline read: 'LAWMAKERS WORRIED: STILL NO VACCINE SUPPLY DEALS.' I cannot go out of the house because I am scared of getting infected with Covid-19 and am patiently waiting for a Covid-19 vaccine only to find out that so far no vaccines are coming.

"It appears the government has not signed a single contract for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines from any supplier and yet the government will not allow the private sector to procure any vaccine without the onerous provision that 50 per cent of the vaccines will be donated to the government.

"The government was trying to force down our throats the Sinovac vaccine with only an efficacy of 50 per cent because they will make P16.8 billion (S$460 million) in kickbacks according to Senator Lacson. I would estimate that at least 10 per cent or even more of our population can afford to pay for their own vaccines since the price of the vaccines ranges only from P680 to P5,400. A lot of people will be willing to pay these amounts since their lives are at stake (so) why is the government blocking the importation of these vaccines by the private sector? As Sen. Franklin Drilon stated, these people are PLAYING GOD while people are dying.

"I think the government figures of those who died from Covid-19 at only around 10,000 is grossly understated. My wife passed away last July from anaphylactic shock since she was feeling bad and afraid to go to the hospital because of Covid-19 and so she took an antibiotic and it turned out she was allergic to said antibiotic and she passed away on the way to the hospital. St. Peter Life Plan used to be our tenant and so my son called them up and though there were a lot of bodies to be cremated, she was given priority and cremated the next day. When my son went to get the ashes of my wife, he got to talk to one of the executives of St. Peter and he was told that so many people are dying of Covid-19 and their crematory workers always have to work overtime. Many well-known personalities in this country have died from Covid-19, so how about the vast majority of the unknown who have died from Covid-19? Statistically it will immediately show that the government figures are erroneous.

"What a government we have, they don't even care if we live or die. This is probably the (worst) government we ever had and the President is said to have a 91-percent approval rating according to Pulse Asia, now called 'False Asia.' Mahar Mangahas of SWS is a batchmate of mine in school but he refuses to make a survey about the popularity of the President since he doesn't want to be ridiculed."

In 2017, it was incompetence that led to the tragedy of Marawi City where more than 200 soldiers and civilians died and a beautiful, historic city left in ruins after a disastrous five-month siege. These days, it is the same incompetence that has brought us to a situation where we are behind our neighbours in Asean in attending to the needs of our people and ensuring a speedy economic recovery for the nation.

Ramon J. Farolan is a columnist with the paper. The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.

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