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SoNA 2020

Ride the tiger

President Rodrigo Duterte realized that the choice was between keeping the economy in even keel and saving as much lives as possible and deciding on how to balance. It was the heaviest responsibility that has been put on the shoulders of a leader.

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Just as when the country was being considered among the fastest growing economy not only in Asia but in the world, and many are considering 2020 as the breakout year for the Philippines, the coronavirus had stopped the growth momentum cold.

From a robust six percent or more yearly growth rate during the four years of the reform-oriented Duterte administration, the economy is lucky to log a minimal contraction of around two to three percent by the end of the year based on government projections.

The coronavirus disease 2019, had it been a weapon, would have been effective to put a country to its knees for a short period of use.

The difference is that it is a natural blight which affects nearly every corner of the world and now threatens to generate the worst recession known to man.

From the start, President Rodrigo Duterte realized that the choice was between keeping the economy in even keel and saving as much lives as possible and deciding on how to balance. It was the heaviest responsibility that has been put on the shoulders of a leader.

The penultimate State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Rodrigo Duterte will dwell on the priorities of government, which include trying to attain normalcy amid the vicious virus that kills like a machine.

Efforts to restore the business cycle are like the ordeal of Sisyphus in rolling a boulder to the top a mountain, only for it to fall as it nears the apex, thus the need to restart again.

The government came up with the National Action Plan (NAP) to combat the contagion. It is now on the second phase, which focuses on balancing health requirements and the gradual reboot of the economy.

NAP on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the tough balancing act is based on the “hammer and dance” theory, wherein the government shall continue to contain the spread of the virus through targeted lockdowns, while slowly rebuilding the economy.

At the onset of the pandemic, the choice was between people’s lives and keeping the economy healthy but as months progress and the virus showed it will not wear out by natural forces such as sunlight, the choice was narrowed to the best decision to limit the fatalities while keeping the wheels of the economy moving.

The lockdowns for more than 100 days due to the pandemic reduced the spread of the infection but had the damaging effect of grounding economic activities.

Government came up with the option to impose “granular targeted lockdowns” to contain the transmission of the dreaded virus within critical areas, but letting businesses to restart in less affected areas, with local executives such as mayors and barangay officials having the supervision of health protocols and other measures to reduce contamination.

Key to the strategy is strengthening and expanding testing capacity to know where the microscopic beast wields its most destructive force.

“We already have more or less 10 million testing kits available for that, and we are now increasing our testing capacity to more than 50,000 and we were able to test 27,000 a day,” Galvez said on the progress of the gameplan.

“Protecting one’s health is more like protecting our livelihoods and the economy,” he added.

Sole salvation remains in the dissemination of an effective vaccine, which based on estimates would have to reach 80 percent of the global population or 6.2 billion of the 7.8 billion members of the human race to stop the virus cold and achieve the return to normalcy.

Until then, the virus would have to be part of the daily concerns of Filipinos and mankind. Government policies and resources, in turn, would have to be devoted mostly in keeping the spread of the malignancy in check.

Through difficult times, however, people and government learned to work together to attain common good.

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