Is the Duterte administration wrong in enforcing a lockdown of the entire Philippines?

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There are 200,000 positive COVID-19 cases throughout the world, mostly in Europe. While cases had slowed down in China, Italy is set to surpass China in terms of the number of infestations of the new corona virus. This, despite the national lockdown initiated by Italy several weeks now and the government just recently extended this.

Chinese health authorities told the Italian government that a total economic lockdown is advisable to fully control the contagion.  In China’s experience in Wuhan, it took them two months before the contagion slowed down.

Right now, the Chinese health authorities reported no new human-to-human transmission although 34 people had been reported to had been infected by the virus, but these people are outsiders.

Italy had effected lockdown. But the lockdown still allowed people to work, while commercial establishments were ordered closed. The lockdown is not exactly the one contemplated by health experts, and the Italian government is seriously considering changing the measure to a more stringent one.

This is the same thing happening in the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ordered a national state of calamity which only allows the release of public funds for use in combatting the contagion but it does not lay down clear guidelines on the implementation of the emergency measure.

While stopping people from leaving their homes, the Philippine government actually allows people to leave the country, which is irrational and irresponsible. There is a big possibility of infected persons leaving the country yet arriving in their intended destinations and possibly spreading the disease unknowingly.

This wishy washy style of decision-making is really what’s troubling for Filipinos. The perception really is the government does not know what to do. The government is scrambling to find solutions and the only solution it thinks it is capable of dispensing is military action.

Thousands of soldiers and police were given instructions to man checkpoints which, as observed, offered slim and weak resistance against the spread. Despite these checkpoints, the country’s health agency reported a spike in the rise of COVID-19 positive patients.

Worse, the economic effects of this lockdown are imponderables, which Duterte’s economic managers failed to account. His national economic adviser Ernesto Pernia was specific–a slash of 1% on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). HIS RESPONSE HOWEVER HAS A QUALIFIER. Pernia is just referring to the effects on trade and travel industries. He has not accounted on the multiplier effects of such contagion.

The lack of understanding the economy is what is unsettling or they are just dismissing the fact that the Philippine economy is mostly small and medium-sized businesses. Most workers are what are described as of “hand-to-mouth” existence. Most are daily wage earners. The longer this lockdown is, the more serious economic effects workers would suffer.

Most SME owners are simply not agreeable with what the government is asking which is to change their ways. You don’t work, you don’t get paid. Even if government does issue an order, such an order would simply not implementable since most businessmen are expecting a monumental hit in their operations.

Is the government right in issuing a lockdown? Yes.  The lockdown is definitely necessary. However, it was the timing that caused the people to doubt of the preparedness of the government.

When Duterte announced the decision of a lockdown, it was at a stage when the contagion is still manage-able. Yes, the rationale is to stop the virus on its tracks, but the government could have given itself at least a week more before it grabbed the initiative.  Government should have first, appealed for popular and collective action. Government should have readied the people for possible drastic measures. Unfortunately, nothing of that sort.

IN the next few days we will be seeing the political fallout this decision to lockdown created. And Duterte will surely only blame himself if the social situation worsens to an uncontrollable degree. He will realize that his decision to militarize this health crisis is the very one that will kill his administration.

 

 

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