Dilemma in the face of COVID-19

The government today is faced with a serious dilemma on how to somehow normalize the situation given the absence of a vaccine for the virus.

Many of us have come across the expression "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." During this COVID-19 crisis, the Philippine Government has been confronted with this reality. The decision on lifting of the community quarantines will largely depend on public health and safety, and the economy. In making this decision, there is no win-win solution.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, with the concurrence of President Duterte, has placed the entire country under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) except for the National Capital Region, Provinces of Laguna and Cebu which are still under a "Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ)." These classifications would allow certain industries and establishments to operate skeletally and following minimum health standards. This decision has been met with optimism and scepticism.

Many businesses find it a relief that they can partially open either under a Modified ECQ or GCQ to recover their losses slowly. The economic managers, particularly Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, has lobbied hard to the President to partially open the economy due to GDP losses of about 0.2% recorded in Q12019 due to COVID-19 and the Taal Volcano eruption.

However, public health experts and medical professionals in the academe have warned of a second wave of infections which may overwhelm our existing health and medical infrastructure. A study by the University of the Philippines reveals that a pre-mature lifting of the ECQ by 15 May 2020 may result in about 24,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,700 casualties by 15 June 2020.

The opinion of the general public has also been divided on the lifting of the ECQ particularly in Metro Manila. Owing to isolated reports of violations on social distancing even during the ECQ period, people are more alarmed over the prospect of public places partially opening due to the lack of discipline shown by some of our countrymen. On the other hand, daily paid workers are eager to report back to work especially those who have yet to receive their cash aid under the Social Amelioration Program.

The government today is faced with a serious dilemma on how to somehow normalize the situation given the absence of a vaccine for the virus. Balancing public health and safety with the needs of the economy is quite challenging, especially that these sectors are interdependent to each other. Lives are both at stake if people are infected or if people go hungry if they cannot work.

These are challenging times for the government today. While the challenges come with the position and the territory, there is good reason for us to cut them some slack. It is also our duty as citizens to ensure that our government will succeed in the fight against COVID19. While silence is definitely not the solution especially when there are wrongs or irregularities in governance, we must be cautious, understanding and selective in the issues we raise so that urgent matters can immediately be addressed by the government.

The dilemma is real. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

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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