A Test of Nationhood

The Filipino spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation or "Bayanihan" is much needed in this time of crisis. The challenge today is not the traditional lending of a hand for a family moving into a new place, but to ensure neighborhoods and communities stay put and quarantined if necessary. The challenge today is to stay calm but alert; dispel panic and promote positivity.

In crisis, leaders and citizens' character and sense of country are put to the extreme test.

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is now considered a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. As of this writing, there are over 100 countries that have now reported laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The number of reported COVID-19 continues to increase globally day by day. Based on WHO's 12 March 2020 Situation Report, there are about 125,000 confirmed cases and over 4,600 recorded deaths.

In the Philippines, there are 52 reported cases of COVID-19 as of 12 March 2020. This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Metro Manila under “community quarantine” effective 15 March 2020.

The virus has effectively affected the country's economic, social and physical environment.

Based on forecasts, the Philippine economy is expected to lose about 0.2-0.6% of its total GDP where about 85,000-250,000 people may be laid off from their jobs. Airline flag carrier Philippine Airlines has already laid off about 300 personnel as its 2019 losses hit Php 10.6 billion due to COVID-19. Based on ADB's forecast, the agricultural, construction, and business and trade sectors are also bound to lose billions as a result of COVID-19.

The biggest challenge for the Philippines would be in the healthcare sector. How would our problematic healthcare system cope with the demands of the COVID-19 virus? Medical professionals in other countries have also fallen victim to the virus, with some even losing their lives in the process of treating infected patients.

The concerns brought about by COVID-19 demands a collective effort from government, civil society and ordinary citizens.

National, local and community-level public servants must organize their efforts effectively to ensure a concerted drive in battling the virus. While frontline agency employees have been mandated to report for work, civil servants capable of providing warm body support should help at this time of crisis.

Companies, particularly those engaged in the goods and commodities businesses, must ensure that their stock of food, medical supplies and basics are available to the public at reasonable rates. Those found to be abusing the situation must be charged with economic sabotage.

Citizens must promote responsible sharing of information. Fake news, partisanship and toilet humor has no place in the social media space today. We can combat the virus by making helpful information viral in various digital platforms instead of hate and negativity.

The Filipino spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation or "Bayanihan" is much needed in this time of crisis. The challenge today is not the traditional lending of a hand for a family moving into a new place, but to ensure neighborhoods and communities stay put and quarantined if necessary. The challenge today is to stay calm but alert; dispel panic and promote positivity.

A whole of nation approach is required to battle an unseen enemy- the COVID-19. Our best weapons to combat COVID-19 are awareness, responsiveness and calmness.

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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