Epic mobilization

March 22, 2020

Make no mistake about it: This is The Main Event, The Moment of Truth,The Deciding Match.

Man vs. microorganism.

We either do or-die, sin or swim, fly or flop.

This is not The Big One we all prepared for.

This is bigger and could last longer, and we should be ready to outlast it.

This would require swift acquisition and mobilization of massive resources – virtually whatever it takes  to overcome this epic debacle.

And there should be no fretting or fussing about costing or valuation because at stake is a precious, priceless resource – human lives.

Thus, we agree with and support Sen. Imee Marcos in calling on the government to cut the prices of more medicines and speed up the purchase of critical equipment other than just testing kits, as the country scrambles to fight the spread of coronavirus disease or Covid-19.

More medicines for those who are "immune-compromised" or have weaker immune systems due to illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and lung disorders should be included in the list of 72 more drugs that the government is considering this week for price regulation, Marcos said.

"Habang wala pang vaccine o lunas sa Covid-19, ang pag-asa na lamang ng mga mahihina ang immune system dahil sa kanilang mga kapansanan ay mas murang gamot," Marcos said.

She issued the statement ahead of a mandatory technical working group  meeting of the Health and Trade and Industry departments to discuss the 72 drugs that would be added to a previous list of medicines subjected to price caps.

Besides cheaper medicine, Marcos also called on health officials to speed up the purchase of   personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff, and oxygen, ventilators, and beds for critical patient care amid the alarming trajectory of confirmed cases of Covid-19, from four to more than 140 in just over a week.

"Dapat nandun na tayo sa proteksyon ng mga nasa frontline at sa critical care ng mga pasyente, dahil mukhang hindi na mahahabol ng kulang-kulang na testing kit ang mabilis n a paglaganap ng Covid-19 hindi lamang sa ating bansa kundi sa buong mundo,” the lady lawmaker said.

The government should immediately release funds on standby to stem the growing panic among ordinary wage earners in industries most affected by the Covid-19 scare, Senator Imee Marcos said.

Marcos, who heads the Senate economic affairs committee, said that funds marked "for later release" can be used to augment the "inadequate" P140 million in emergency funds of the Department of Labor and Employment  and can be sourced from the Department of Budget and Management and other national agencies.

"Kahit pantawid-gutom man lang, kailangan ng compensatory packages ang mga ordinaryong wage earners na talagang mawawalan ng trabaho habang umaaligid pa itong Covid-19," Marcos said.

She explained that only 7,000 workers would  benefit from the DoLE's emergency funds if each receives P20,000 in aid, noting that more than twice the number of workers face lay-offs in the garment exports sector alone.

The garment export industry has about 300,000 direct hires, with some companies already implementing "temporary forced leaves" on 5 percent to 10 percent of their workforce due to an unreliable supply of materials caused by a manufacturing slowdown in China.

Marcos also said a projected downturn of 1.4 million tourist arrivals up to June may put 30,000 to 50,000 employees out of work, based on data from the National Economic Development Authority.

She called on the Department of Tourism  to rethink its marketing strategy of promoting domestic tourism to take up the slack in foreign tourists.

"Hindi na uubra yan. Naka-imposed na ang community quarantine sa buong Metro Manila, at maari pa itong tumagal at lumawak sa buong bansa kung lumala ang paglaganap ng Covid-19," she said, adding that the DoT should instead redirect funds allotted for marketing abroad to cushion retrenchment and loss of income.

The Asian Development Bank estimates some 252,000 jobs may be lost in factories, economic zones, tourism, and among OFWs unable to leave the country, the lawmaker said.

Marcos appealed to NEDA and the Department of Finance not to understate its numbers, so that President Duterte can decide on emergency aid and stimulus packages that are truly responsive to the magnitude of the Covid-19 threat.

"Hindi magandang mag-plano sa magandang scenario. Mas magandang mag-plano sa worst-case," Marcos said.

Let us all hope for the best while bracing for the worst.