COVID ‘here to stay,’ gov’t must innovate and adapt

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With the growing complexities of the pandemic, the Philippine government has to tailor its response with the mindset that COVID-19 is “here to stay,” according to former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Pwedeng grumabe, pwedeng bumaba ang cases, pwedeng humina y’ung virus, pwedeng magkaroon ng kung anuman, pero it’s here to stay,” Cayetano said in a media interview.

(The cases can swell, they can go down, the virus can weaken, anything can happen, but it’s certainly here to stay.)

Ilang beses na ba tayong nabulaga ng COVID? Nabulaga tayo ng Delta, nabulaga tayo ngayon ng Omicron, tapos sinasabi fully vaccinated na pero sa ibang bansa eh third dose na, pinag-uusapan na rin ang fourth dose,” the former Speaker added.

(We’ve been caught off-guard before with Delta, now with Omicron. Other countries already define ‘fully vaccinated’ as three shots, and some are even thinking of a fourth shot.)

Cayetano said the current mindset brought about by less stringent restrictions late last year may hinder more progressive ways in dealing with the Omicron variant as well as other possible future variants of COVID-19.

Nagtatrabaho naman talaga ang gobyerno, lalo na y’ung local government, o IATF, pero y’ung mindset kasi parang matatapos na ang pandemic, may bakuna na, may gamot na, eh all the doctors have been telling us, we have to live with COVID, hindi basta mawawala ito,’” Cayetano said.

(The government is working hard, especially local government units [LGUs] and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases [IATF], but the mindset that the pandemic will end, that there are vaccines and medicines for it anyway, cannot justify our current mindset. Doctors have said that we have to live with COVID.)

Cayetano said because Filipinos are optimistic by nature, people do not think about adapting, innovating, and living with COVID-19.

“We cannot innovate, we cannot adapt kung ang parati nating iniisip ‘matatapos na’ (if our mindset is that the pandemic is about to end),” he said.

Cayetano said even with no lockdowns and other restrictions, the ongoing rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 makes it a necessity for the government to provide financial assistance to everyone.

For example, some restaurants here in Metro Manila nagsara by themselves not because walang customer, not because of lockdown, but because ang dami nilang crew at sa kitchen na nag-positive [sa COVID-19]. Kung ‘yan ay breadwinner, tapos pati y’ung hindi nagpositive ‘pag nagsara y’ung resaturant ng one week, two weeks, three weeks ay walang kakainin yung pamilya nila kung wala tayong mabibigay na ayuda,” he said.,

(For example, some restaurants here in Metro Manila closed by themselves not because there are no customers or there lockdowns but because many of their crew members and kitchen personnel have tested positive for COVID-19. If they are breadwinners, even if they did not test positive but the restaurant closes for one or two or three weeks, their families will have nothing to eat if we do not give financial aid.)

He said the good news is that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have a total of P80 billion they can give as financial assistance.

Ang bad news, napakaliit ng P80 billion,” he said. “So kung magla-lockdown tayo, mangangapa na naman tayo kung saan tayo kukuha, so napaka-importante na sa bawat galaw natin, we try to predict the unpredictable,” he added.

(The bad news is that P80 billion is too small. If we face lockdown again, we’ll have difficulty finding enough funds again. It’s important that we be prepared and predict the unpredictable.)

Cayetano said providing financial aid directly to all Filipino families is the simpler and more efficient way to distribute financial aid, especially at a time when the Philippines may see more stringent lockdowns in light of the Omicron variant.

He also said the targeted approach will not work because the funds are lodged in different departments and agencies.

The most simple way is tulad sa Bayanihan 1. Just give it per family, ibigay niyo sa LGU, at lahat bigyan niyo na. So y’ung targeted approach na per department, it really doesn’t work, so I hope ma-speed up talaga para hindi naman mawalan ng pag-asa ang ating mga kababayan,” Cayetano said.

(The most simple way is one adapted by Bayanihan 1. Just give the aid to every family through the LGUs. The targeted approach in which every department distributes its own aid doesn’t work, so I hope this can be speeded up so that our people do not lose hope.)

Cayetano has been pushing the government to provide Filipinos P10,000 in direct aid since early 2021. His twin programs, Sampung Libong Pag-asa and Sari-saring Pag-asa which regularly air on his official Facebook page, aim to provide affected sectors and small businesses, respectively, with direct stimulus aid.

I’m really hoping, this 2022, makapag-innovate ang gobyerno kahit na nag-eeleksyon, kahit nagta-transition tayo,” Cayetano said.

(I’m really hoping that this year, the government can innovate even during the election campaign, even when we transition to a new administration.)####

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