Sat. Sep 18th, 2021

It’s about time to retire an old horse.

Early on I have smelled a dead rat in the Department of Health, President Rodrigo Duterte was given special power by congress to re-align budgets to address emergency needs of government hospitals handling corona virus cases.

Before that, not a few frontline health workers got infected and then later succumbed to Covid-19.

Weeks elapsed. From where I lived in faraway Davao, I cannot understand why there seems to be no sense of urgency coming from the DOH.

At the Southern Philippines Medical Center which is based in the home City of the President, a friend doctor told me that doctors and other front-liners in the hospital have ran out of protective suit and have resorted to using hospital blankets. And they were getting sick.

When you are in that situation, it becomes incomprehensible why DOH cannot purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) when, for certain, they have the funds which they can re-align for after all DOH has over ₱100-billion budget. Some Samaritans in Davao pulled resources and purchased 500 PPEs at ₱1,200 each and other supplies.

Later, Foreign Affairs Sec Teddy “Boy” Locsin announced China is donating PPEs and testing equipment to the Philippines, DOH Sec. Francisco Duque had ambivalent reaction on China’s generosity. Even then, we were in limbo on whether DOH had, on its own, placed an order for PPEs and testing supplies.

For a while hospital facilities for COVID 19 patients and quarantine facilities for PUIs were fast becoming inadequate. Good thing Duterte has an action man in the person of BCDA Pres. Vince Dizon. In no time at all, he converted sports facilities and other government buildings into infirmaries. Duque was there for the inaugurals.

I am amazed with the patience of President Duterte, despite the clarion call for the termination of Secretary Duque. Eventually he silenced critics and concerned quarters that Duque will stay in his post.

Last week however, the President’s patience maybe thinning out.

This, after he learned that thousands of returning OFWs, who had been declared negative of Covid-19, had been languishing in their quarantine quarters for over a month have yet to be given clearance to return to their respective destinations. The problem? They were not issued medical certificates. It took an angry President to whip agencies heads to action.

But that is not enough. Later President Duterte made an emphatic announcement that for as long as there is no vaccine yet available in the market, he will not allow regular classes to resume. The following day, his Health Secretary contradicted his declaration.

Then the putrid smell from the dead rat eventually reached the doorsteps of Malacanang. President Duterte questioned why DOH insists on buying PPEs from what Duque described as “exclusive” distributor. Duterte who hates corruption cannot condone the apparent overprice of PPEs and other testing equipment. In the face of Duque he says he hates people taking advantage of the crisis and people’s misery.

I think that Duque was asleep when the President was talking on a nationwide TV. In today’s GCQ environment where the government is exploring to balance between the nations health and the economy, the last thing that Duterte needs is a somnambulist. He needs a dynamic team who can work and last with him up to the wee hours.

It is about time to retire an old horse. Mr. President there are too many to choose from in the stable.

Saving PAL and CebuPac

Our two airline firms are crash landing and we passengers are in them. This, on account of the pandemic which hit the tourism industry and air travel right on the solar plexus. Sad and worrisome.

The initial reaction was to seek government subsidy but the government is already heavily saddled with financial problems as it has to grapple with social amelioration outreach programs to help the marginalized cope with the horrendous problems that we, like other countries, are beset with.

Airline companies have to think out of the box and, like what is happening today in every home, PAL and CebuPac should make adjustments in order to survive. These two companies after all are not the sole business of the owners. They are among our progressive zaibatsus and transporting their own products to various points in the country will keep them partly afloat.

The challenge is survival and maybe with a little profit.

PAL for example can convert half of its passenger space for cargo. But they have to reduce their freight charges by at least 40%, after all, isn’t it that the cost of oil had crashed ahead of other industries?

We all remember that each time the oil prices inched a bit our airline companies would make it a reason to increase their rate by the feet. Or, have you ever wondered why it is cheaper to fly from Manila to Hong Kong and Macau than from Davao to Manila? Just asking to prick the conscience of Lucio Tan and Lance Gokongwei.

With more cargo space, PAL and CebuPac can move perishable items from the provinces to Metro Manila where the huge consumer market is.

Vegetable and root crops, fruits, fish, and processed meat from say, Davao, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Jolo, and Cotabato can then be sold fresh in the wet markets and groceries in Metro Manila. This will help vegetable farmers, fishermen, hog raisers, and fruit growers sell their products on a sustainable basis and be encouraged to increase their production.

PAL and CebuPac can also take an active part with Sen. Bong Go’s Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa (PB2).

If among those thousands of PB2 beneficiaries are would-be vegetable, fruit growers, hog raisers, and fishermen will become productive then this is one part of the important transport infrastructures that are already in place.

The key here is for the airline firms to moderate their freight charges. Flatten your rates and income on freight a bit within the reach of farmers and you can arrive on time and not land in the Pacific. (ia/

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