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Flagrant harbor

Now is a good time to catch up on our reading before a red torrent forcibly sweeps us into the abyss like Hong Kong.

Dean Dela Paz

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Perhaps it is because we were too busy with our own problems that we did not notice in our neighborhood the geopolitical noose was tightening. Part of it was because we, by choice, deliberately wallow in a typically parochial frame of mind. Ours is a myopic affliction illustrated by our preference for voyeur journalism that considers petty crimes, wife beatings, child rape and curbside snatching as the essential content of broadcasted news programs over anything that requires a modicum of thinking.

Media should have been our window to the world, especially our immediate environs. In the waters off our shores, media should have shown us creeping intrusion. Over the seas where the sun sets magnificently, we should have seen fires burning in a place most known to us as an employer of teachers turned domestics.

Unfortunately, media yields to the demands of its market and supplies what the market desires. Its preference for pettiness, legendary. And its shortsightedness does not extend beyond the western horizon.

Obviously, geopolitics, even where it impacts right in our waters or within our next-door neighbor, is not one of the Filipino public’s top-of-mind concerns.

Unless of course one’s livelihood depends on fishing over disputed waters off the Palawan and Zambales coastlines. Or a family’s dependence on a Filipina domestic in Hong Kong, or maybe the critical livelihood of one enjoying frequent traveler miles on the Manila to Hong Kong route.

Hong Kong is the Romanized nomenclature for the Chinese term for “fragrant” or “incense” harbor. It is Cantonese where “fragrant” either meant the aroma of sweetness from the freshwater river that flowed into the bay, or “incense,” referring to incense warehouses that lined the banks of the former Aberdeen Harbor.

There was another interpretation of the etymology that perhaps applies more today given what Hong Kong has so drastically turned into given violent changes from an authority that has all but reneged on a 1997 promise.

In the time of Sir John Francis Davis, Hong Kong’s second colonial governor between 1844 and 1848, the Baronet offered another origin. He said the term might mean “red torrent” in reference to the deep crimson color of the soil from a waterfall that flowed into the area.

Had Sir John known that barely two decades and a couple of years past the time Hong Kong would eventually revert to China, the “red torrent” etymological root would be an ominous and more applicable origin. Discern what has befallen Hong Kong given the flagrant and manifest torrents of harsh and oppressive impositions that negate a “two-system” guarantee.

When the Chinese communists were still a ragtag guerrilla army in the 1930s, two books defined the West’s understanding of modern China’s rise and its eventual flagrant domination of a fifth of the planet. The Good Earth was by Pearl Buck. Edgar Snow wrote Red Star over China.

Trapped by a pandemic spawned from China, now is a good time to catch up on our reading before a red torrent forcibly sweeps us into the abyss like Hong Kong.

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Living Spaces

Supply, demand, and price

Now, if a hydroponics or aquaponics farm uses grow lights, there are, indeed, advantages, especially regarding controlling the environment where the crops will grow, particularly the amount of available light per day that the plants need for optimal growth.

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Basil and mint used to cost P650 to P700 per kg (grocery price). A few months into the pandemic, that has changed. A lot. Now, they’re priced at P476 and P403 per kg, respectively.

From a high of around P700 to a low of P403, that’s a loss of roughly 42 percent of value. From a financial statement perspective, imagine the projected revenue fall by that much. If the projection is P1,000,000 per year, then it drops to P580,000.

How will this affect the balance sheet and the cash flow? How will obligations be paid? And if there is leverage involved, and the debt is substantial, how high is the likelihood of default? What is the effect on the collateral and credit standing? What is the legal risk?

Going back to economics, low demand creates oversupply, and because the market wants to get rid of the surplus (especially the perishable kind), the price is adjusted downwards to attract buyers because consumers respond to price.

The pandemic, which has shut down many businesses in the food industry, has pulled demand to significant low. Because of oversupply, the price has naturally followed the downward trend.

Price of basil per kg has dropped during the pandemic.

Now, if a hydroponics or aquaponics farm uses grow lights, there are, indeed, advantages especially regarding controlling the environment where the crops will grow, particularly the amount of available light per day that the plants need for optimal growth. And if you use LED, the light required per day is covered without having to worry about producing so much heat that is no longer healthy for the crops.

But there is also a downside to using grow lights instead of relying on sunlight which, in the Philippines, we already have a lot of. Just imagine the cost of those lights (including depreciation, meaning you have to replace them after “x” number of years), as well as electricity consumption (remember that some were charged by Meralco several times more, based on an “average” consumption rate during the lockdown period), etc.

If one intends to shift a hobby to a fully operational commercial farm, how will the enterprise cover for these costs? What more if the revenue, because of sudden decline in demand for the product that has also reduced the price per kg, drops by as much as 42 percent? How will this affect the viability of the company?

And these overhead costs of systems that use artificial light is reflected in the price per kg of herbs, for example, which were grown indoors.

I have seen hydroponically grown basil that use artificial lights sold at around P2,000 per kg. Even if it is marketed as clean, fresh, pesticide free, naturally grown, etc., it’s still very expensive.

But assuming that the enterprise caters to a niche market that’s willing to pay a premium for fresh products, then all would seem fine. Yes, during ordinary times, there are niches in the market that has buyers willing to pay that price despite the presence of cheaper alternatives.

However, how did spending habits change as we entered an economic crisis due to the pandemic? Will consumption of premium produce survive this plight?

Basil grown at the backyard aquaponics farm. / PHOTOGRAPHS by VINCENT NOEL AUREUS FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE

Assuming that sound business practice means selling at three times the cost, or for every peso spent sell at P3 (otherwise hindi na sulit, nakakapagod lang) then, conservatively, it’s safe to assume that the cost of production of that P2,000 per kg basil is P666 (derived by dividing P2,000 by 3). That’s the breakeven price.

Competitors are selling the same (or similar) product at around P476 (for the basil). That’s a 28 percent difference. Which enterprise will flourish or, at the very least, survive the economic downturn and which one will be in for a really, really difficult time? Which one will have the competitive advantage?

And what’s the key takeaway here regarding overhead costs and growing indoors using artificial lights as a business enterprise?

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Opinion

How human is your hospital?

In other words, the workplace must enable people to think, to manage their egos and emotions, to listen and to emotionally engage with others in positive ways that result in high-quality collaboration.

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About 80 percent of medical executives say improving the patient experience is a top priority. And yet, many hospitals focus on the latest programs or initiatives that may produce short-term boosts that don’t last very long.

But as healthcare organizations face new challenges, more find they need to make a cultural transformation to improve performance and enhance the patient experience.

Patient centeredness must not be just a program or an initiative. It is the heart of a hospital’s operations, a culture of intention where every employee, from the front lines to the back offices, is aligned toward the same goals and can say with assurance this is how we do things here.

It’s more than just telling employees to be nicer to patients and to each other, particularly during this pandemic.

As the digital age advances and technology takes over more jobs, workers must get better at those “human” skills computers can’t do. They must excel at critical thinking, innovative thinking, collaborating and emotionally engaging with others in the creation and delivery of products and services.

Most of all, one must excel at continuously learning… and unlearning… and relearning.

In other words, the workplace must enable people to think, to manage their egos and emotions, to listen and to emotionally engage with others in positive ways that result in high-quality collaboration. In the digital age, people need to bring their “best selves” to work.

This shift requires people to engage in constant learning. And that means your workplace must mitigate the two big individual inhibitors of learning: ego and fear. This can be highly challenging in healthcare.

Unfortunately, most workplaces are relics of the Industrial Revolution. The leadership model is command and control, and they achieve compliance through fear.

If your company is to survive, you’re going to have to humanize it. The old, fear- and ego-based ways of working and leading won’t survive in the digital age amid a pandemic that magnifies every kind of emotion particularly in the healthcare setting.

Research by cognitive, social and positive psychologists shows that positive emotions enable and enhance innovative thinking, learning and creativity, and they lead to better judgments and decision-making. Negative emotions like fear and anxiety squelch them.

There are simple things you can do at the start of a meeting to help people be in a positive mood. Just asking people to smile at each other or make eye contact makes a big difference. So does asking people questions that indicate you care about them as individuals. Truly listening to people is mission critical.

People will feel positive when they feel cared about as unique human beings, and when they trust their colleagues and managers or leaders. Work environments that make people feel like a machine or a cog in a giant wheel will not enable the needed human performance in the digital age.

For companies to survive the digital age, they need to ‘humanize’ themselves by fostering positive emotions in the workplace. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY UNSPLASH/JAVIER MATHEU

Studies show that without psychological safety, people will not fully embrace the hard parts of thinking and innovating: giving and receiving constructive feedback; challenging the status quo; asking and being asked the hard questions; being non-defensive, open-minded and intellectually courageous; and having the courage to try new things and fail.

Google has studied what makes certain teams effective in the search for the “secret sauce” of high performance. The most important factor it discovered was psychological safety. The study further states that the precondition for feeling safe is trust — and while nobody is “against” trust, many leaders worry about the time it takes to build it.

Another study indicates that intrinsic motivation occurs when three innate human needs are met: empowerment or autonomy, relatedness and competence. People feel empowered when they are given the opportunity to have input into how they do their job. Mutual respect for and reliance with others means an individual is connected or is related to another person or persons in the organization. Giving staff the tools and training for skillsets to be able to deliver excellence at optimally challenging tasks instills pride at their own competence to succeed. If employees feel that they have autonomy, relatedness and competence at work, they’re more likely to be highly engaged and thus more likely to perform at high levels.

It’s not easy to transform an organization. You can’t transform a workplace unless its leaders actually lead in transforming how they lead. They must behave in ways that enable the new desired behaviors, and they must role-model those behaviors. Leaders must be enablers, not commanders. They must liberate their employees to perform at their highest levels — cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally.

If your company is to survive, you’re going to have to humanize it. The old, fear- and ego-based ways of working and leading won’t survive in the digital age amidst a pandemic which magnifies every kind of emotion particularly in the healthcare setting.

When people are able to play to their strengths and develop themselves, they don’t just go through the motions or wish away the day. This is the kind of work we all long for.

By involving every team member, across all lines of the patient experience, and making them the architects responsible for developing a new organizational culture, they’ve not only created it, they own it. This authorship and ownership lead to mutual accountability, which means your team will police it every day at all levels … even when you’re not around.

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Commentary

Wages of greed

Charges are being prepared against the PhilHealth crooks, but no concrete plan has been laid out regarding the resumption of the stalled law.

TEB

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Had greed in government not intervened, the Philippines would have started this year a social scheme that is now globally being pushed as a necessity amid the pandemic, which is the universal health coverage that has even been made into a law in the country.

Filipinos are banking on the Universal Health Care (UHC) law to liberate them from the high cost of hospital services that had resulted to the culture of alternative or self-medication that proves fatal to those with serious illnesses.

At the 53rd annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Governors meeting, the UHC was the hottest topic as finance and health ministers rack their brains for tighter collaboration in mobilizing financing to help countries survive the contagion.

ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa stressed that UHC is indispensable as a foundation of strong health systems.

“We have to build health systems where people from all walks of life, including the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, can access health services at an affordable cost while maintaining these health systems’ financial sustainability — even in aging societies that many countries in Asia and the Pacific are heading toward,” Asakawa said.

“In this regard, close collaboration between finance and health ministers is crucial for our member economies to provide cost-effective, inclusive and high-quality health interventions, underpinned by sustainable finance,” he added.

According to the ADB, each year, the cost of health care drives tens of millions of people in Asia and the Pacific into poverty.

It noted that during the pandemic, countries that have achieved UHC, or are close to it, have been able to mobilize critical disease prevention and control measures, such as risk communication, testing, contact tracing and isolation.

The UHC law was exactly the recommended formula but which failed to take off, since its funding fell victim to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) scandal in which huge amounts were diverted straight to the pockets of overstaying officials.

The law seeks to do more since it also provides for the distribution of outpatient or basic drugs to all Filipinos for free.

It also seeks to provide the entire population with preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care.

The landmark law would have offered immediate assistance to Filipinos afflicted with the coronavirus disease. Even with PhilHealth assistance, infected individuals needed to spend an average of P300,000 in case of a severe attack.

The law also provides for a special health fund that will be created and managed by province-wide or city-wide health systems. All resources intended for health services sought to be pooled to finance health services. Such will also be used to cover operating costs, capital investments and remuneration and incentives for all health workers.

Charges are being prepared against the PhilHealth crooks, but no concrete plan has been laid out regarding the resumption of the stalled law.

What happens to PhilHealth also determines the fate of the UHC, since under the law, the health insurance agency would be its implementor.

For the law to be effective, it also needs an estimated P257 billion yearly, which will be sourced from sin tax collections and partly from income generated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Legislators are expectedly reluctant to release huge amounts to the graft-ridden health agency.

A swift resolution of the mess in PhilHealth is needed to remove the hurdles to the implementation of the UHC law, which is delayed during a crisis when Filipinos needed it most.

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Commentary

Tempest over towers

Little was said about the foreign incursion and the violation of our sovereign rights and territory. Little was said of illegal poaching and the competition for limited aquatic resources.

Dean Dela Paz

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When we first heard about it, the Chinese ruling party called them makeshift shelters that provide temporary protection from the elements for their fishermen too far offshore in the high seas. The grainy satellite photographs did indeed show what appeared to be hexagonal roofs over fragile structures built on stilts in what was then called the South China Sea. That Chinese structures regardless of purpose were located within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines was a matter of concern.

But not much. Fishermen do not constitute a major political block. Little was said about the foreign incursion and the violation of our sovereign rights and territory. Little was said of illegal poaching and the competition for limited aquatic resources inflicted on our vulnerable fishermen and their wooden outriggers up against iron-hulled fishing fleets. And even less was said of the environmental destruction of a fragile ecosystem of which we were stewards. If it’s below the surface, then it’s unseen.

On a grander scale, our typical inability to situate ourselves on the broader landscape of geopolitics, as well as our classic defeatism based on a myopic view of ourselves against others who might have far longer perspectives, curses us to believe lies fed us.

The strange shapes looked far from threatening and we accepted the explanation, confident our agreements with other superpowers would protect us should the shapes conceal silos directed at Philippine bases that host powers unallied with the Chinese Communist Party.

For Filipinos, as we continue to wallow in partisan politics, and where our politics is almost totally local, myopic and focused inwardly both in terms of space and time, we’ve effectively self-inflicted ourselves with extreme shortsightedness. We know only the here and now. Space does not go any farther and time does not extend beyond the present.

Yet we wallow in partisan mud and slime with as much glee as we do with sappy show business intrigue. Simply watch the six o’clock news on tabloid TV and see where our national interests lie.

The military, which has recently taken over our lives, sees us and the dissidents and critics among us as the enemy. Our resultant political perspective is not global. It is parochial and momentary.

Unfortunately, it is also stupid.

In contrast, the Chinese Communist Party that’s been ruling China since 1949, well over three quarters of a century, is our diametric opposite. What they brew, they brew for decades. And it is a complex recipe encompassing diverse strategic initiatives that range from economic, to political, to the sub-sectoral, from agricultural to military and industrial. All pragmatic and totalitarian.

The tempest over installing Chinese telecommunications towers in sovereign and secured military camps should be viewed in this manner. Couple the discourse with the reality that the technical aspect of our power transmission lines is already under their control. Add to the toxic chemistry how we’ve long surrendered our bases to adversaries first through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States and now, effectively, the telecommunications towers to the Chinese Communist Party.

Both allow not simply access but usage, now and generations from now. Unfortunately, our officials simply think in terms of national security, failing to discern these as an insidious shell game of global and generational geopolitics.

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Commentary

‘Born to kill’

With the US Subic Naval base, Clark served as the second edge of America’s sword for its operations in Asia.

John Henry Dodson

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Inscribed on a battlefield helmet in what is now an iconic movie poster, the motto sums up Stanley Kubrick’s gritty Vietnam War movie “Full Metal Jacket” on the dehumanizing effects of war on soldiers.

Midway in the film, triggered by a particularly hellish boot camp and the daily mind-conditioning that it’s kill or be killed, Private “Gomer Pyle” did just that — shoot dead his stern and foul-mouthed drill instructor.

Played with uncanny realism by R. Lee Ermey, he being a real Marine early in life, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman showed through his death that his “beloved” United States Marines Corps does turn boys into men trained to kill.

Kubrick’s anti-war stance posits that boys forced into manhood emerge from brutal training as damaged goods, with their fingers quick to the trigger and with the gung-ho attitude that “it’s better you than me” inside a cadaver bag.

Movies reflect real life and “Full Metal Jacket” may just give us some insights on the sad episode that brought together, in a flash of deadly violence, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton and the transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.

Pemberton is already back home in America after half a decade of serving time for the killing of Laude in 2014. He has thanked President Rodrigo Duterte, like the many jailed Filipinos who are now with us after being pardoned of crimes committed abroad.

I dare say it’s very hard to begrudge the President for his grant of absolute pardon to Pemberton and not just on the legalistic notion that he has absolute authority to grant the same, whatever his motivations may be.

As a people with a government that has time and again sought mercy for our countrymen who had run afoul with the laws of other countries, we have to concede that mercy begets mercy.

What’s important is that Pemberton has admitted to committing his grievous mistakes as a 19-year-old grunt, has paid for it with years that he no longer can bring back, and that he has promised to become a better man. Earn your freedom, Joseph. Stay true to your pledge.

As for Jeffrey Laude, may his death  at the still young age of 26 bring forth front and center the social inequity that has made prostitution — served by men and women seen as nothing more than a sub-species, as playthings, as appendages and triangular mounds of flesh, and in many instances as punching bags — a trade predating biblical references.

No one can call the over P4 million in damages that had been mercifully granted by our court to the Laude family as a small consolation or as big enough a payment akin to “blood money.” Life, after all, cannot be measured in pesos and dollars, and by the thousands or even by the millions.

Still, whatever Jeffrey Laude could not afford to provide his family while he was alive, he did so with his passing. He will always be a symbol of the fight for justice and equality transcending gender and racial biases, as well as breaking down socio-economic barriers.

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I, too, was 19 in 1989 when, with two fellow University of Santo Tomas journalism seniors, we motored around for three nights in the red light district of Angeles City for a group thesis on the prostitution that catered to American GIs stationed at the US-operated Clark Air Force Base.

With the US Subic Naval base, Clark served as the second edge of America’s sword for its operations in Asia. It was a time when communism was threatening the region and the US was still smarting from its debacles in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

As pointed out by University of the Philippines Professor Roland Simbulan in his book The Bases of Our Insecurity, Clark and Subic also helped the American government co-opt Philippine governments with its influence peddling and outright interference on our political affairs.

Just to cite one example I can think of, the Cory Aquino government would have been toppled in the late 1980s if not for the two US F4 Phantom jets that conducted “persuasion flights” against mutinous Filipino airmen aboard their World War 2-vintage Tora-Tora planes.

Without Uncle Sam, the Cory government would have come crashing down like a house made of matchsticks with the many coups d’état it faced.
The Clark and Subic bases are long gone now and whatever American forces still come to our shores, they do so as part of joint military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

How many more Pembertons and Daniel Smiths will we have?

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“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that day, you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth.

“You are not even human fu*cking beings. You are nothing but unorganized grab-ass-tic pieces of amphibian sh*t! Because I am hard, you will not like me. But the more you hate me, the more you will learn.”

— Sgt. Hartman

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Commentary

Risking the meter

With non-workers forced to stay home, there is actually less demand for public transport. A fact which makes it easier for PUV… to accommodate the physical distancing needs of workers.

Nick V. Quijano Jr.

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Any talk of risk heats up passions.

So, it is not altogether surprising to find senior government officials are at loggerheads on whether or not it is safe for the public to be less than a meter apart from each other inside mass transport.

Anyway, as I write this, senior officials are scheduled for a serious powwow on the policy of relaxed physical distancing implemented last Monday.

And, judging from their public pronouncements, they are probably in for a shouting match. Mr. Duterte, of course, will have to eventually decide and settle the all-too public squabble.

On the issue, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) insist that people being less than a meter apart inside public vehicles isn’t at all that risky to health.

Siding with the DoTr, National Action Plan (NAP) head Carlito Galvez argues it’s all a matter of managing risks.

Managing risks in this case means passengers won’t be allowed to talk with each other or on their cell phones while onboard trains, jeepneys, buses or whatever other modes of public transport.

The Health department, surprisingly, and the Local Government department are aghast. Beleaguered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III openly warned Mr. Duterte Tuesday that relaxing physical distancing in public transport will lead to 686 fresh deaths each day, 20,580 extra cases per month.

Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Año adamantly characterizes the policy as dangerous.

Setting aside dueling government personalities, avoiding virus contagion inside public transportation, of course, cannot be discounted nor set aside by us.

We need do nothing else except weigh the medical risks or heed advice from medical experts if ever we do take public transport.

In fact, as one public health advocate laments, practicing health and safety protocols under the new policy is basically another burden for the hapless commuter fighting for limited public transport. A burden, not a boon.

A fact recognized by the DoH itself when it pathetically pleads with commuters “to be extra vigilant” and to choose other transport options “that can afford at least one-meter distancing.”

But whatever decision government comes up with, we will know soon enough if our medical safety matters more than the other risk the DoTr claims is as just as compelling — our tanking economy.

There is need to pay full attention to this other risk with which DoTr and our economic managers are framing the whole controversy. We need to scrutinize whether it passes muster or if it is misguided.

The DoTr says relaxing the distancing requirement in public transport is meant to “optimize” the carrying capacity of the various modes of public transport as more people return to work to revive the economy.

To convince us, DoTr says it made a survey of other countries’ health protocols on public transport and found out that many have relaxed their distancing measures, but kept other stringent measures like the wearing of masks.

At first, the claims seem plausible. But there is one crucial fact that’s being skirted — our present mass transport system in this pandemic is as limited as it ever has been.

I find it absurd why transportation officials are not as assiduous in addressing the obvious lack of public transport in the pandemic as they are tinkering with medical protocols. Are they that powerless?

As far as I can tell, the DoTr isn’t upfront on the exact number of jeepneys (both traditional and e-jeeps), buses, UV express vans and tricycles or whatever else presently plying metro streets.

This is a crucial point as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, ever since it disallowed all modes of public transport to operate in the metropolis during previous lockdowns, has not fully allowed the return of all public utility vehicles (PUV).

What this means is that whatever the number of public transport now operating in the metropolis doesn’t come near as what the metropolis had before the pandemic. Believing otherwise is delusional in the face of demand from jeepney and UV van drivers for more routes from the LFTRB.

So, the pertinent question still is: What really is the state of our present public transport system?

Unless officials have other agenda, seriously answering the question is a reality check on the physical distancing issue.

More so in face of the obvious fact that with non-workers forced to stay home, there is actually less demand for public transport. A fact which makes it easier for PUV, if these are really all out, to accommodate the physical distancing needs of workers.

In short, addressing both safety and economic concerns is not about adding more passengers into PUV, but is about more PUV on the streets.

Email: [email protected]

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Business

Empowering Filipinos to fight the pandemic

The nationwide education campaign empowers every Filipino to be an instrument of change in the fight against COVID-19.

Joe Zaldarriaga

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Since the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus in the country at the onset of 2020, the national government implemented various means to contain the virus through strict community quarantine measures. We are now on the sixth month of nationwide lockdown but the continuous increase of confirmed cases in the past weeks reinforces the importance of practicing healthy habits and preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease.

To help overcome this big challenge, the Department of Health (DoH) has come up with a campaign in collaboration with various government agencies and the private sector called BIDA Solusyon sa COVID-19. The nationwide education campaign empowers every Filipino to be an instrument of change in the fight against COVID-19, by encouraging them to change and practice preventive behaviors in stopping the spread of the virus.

One of the private corporations that readily extended its arm to support BIDA Solusyon is the Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) Group of Companies.

To show its commitment in participating in the campaign, more than 14 companies and foundations under the MVP Group, from all different industries, including utilities, investments, financial services, infrastructure, media and health care, pledged to closely work with the government to fight the pandemic.

Recently, Meralco and PLDT-Smart donated hospital equipment to the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC), the new COVID referral center, which will contribute in the campaign against the pandemic. As a result, the bed capacity of the center reached 250 allowing EAMC to accept more patients affected and infected with the virus. The new building of EAMC is now called the Center for Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases.

IATF-EID chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. thanked the MVP Group: “This is a great service to our people, a quick call to action of the clarion call of the President to prepare and equip COVID-19 hospitals.”

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte also expressed her gratitude, “We are grateful to the MVP Group’s generous donation of high-quality medical equipment to EAMC. These will greatly benefit the people of Quezon City, most particularly the underprivileged and vulnerable. These equipment will make EAMC more responsive to the needs of our people, a great contribution to our main goal of a higher level of service for the community.”

The Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc. (MPHHI) likewise created a COVID crisis management team to ensure the health and safety of health care workers, so they could give continuous service to Filipinos, especially those directly affected by the pandemic.

The programs of these hospitals also continue to run full-force in the Group, including adding more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, as well as supplying PPE and posting additional staff.
Among the hospitals under MPHHI are Makati Medical Center, Asian Hospital, Davao Doctors Hospital, Cardinal Santos Medical Center and Medical Center at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

To help disseminate information about the BIDA Solusyon campaign, PLDT-Smart’s physical stores and business centers nationwide, and offices of Meralco, Bayad Center and Maynilad, displayed and distributed educational materials of the campaign.

Likewise, the Light Rail Manila Corp., operator of the LRT-1, is also promoting the campaign by distributing materials to more than 100,000 daily passengers.

To prevent the spread of the virus in our main expressways, the MVP Group is also rolling out contactless RFID payment in toll booths and in toll roads, including NLEX, CAVITEX and CALAX.

The PayMaya group is also promoting cashless transactions on its platform to ensure safety when customers pay or transfer their funds, protecting the health, safety and welfare of commuters, government and big and small businesses alike.

Maynilad has committed to provide continuous water supply for COVID-19 hospitals and centers, and also assured the immediate connection of water facilities to new mega quarantine facilities.

Maynilad will also put up contactless hand wash stations with liquid soap for more effective handwashing.

DoH Secretary Francisco Duque III also thanked the MVP Group for its contribution to the BIDA Solusyon campaign: “We want to thank the MVP Group for the substantial support they have been providing DoH in ramping up health system capacities; this is really crucial in the overall objective of the health sector in leading the effort to increase and enhance health system capacity.”

Secretary Duque called for continued synergy, unity and alignment among government agencies and the private sector, as well as a joint effort with the Filipino people to be COVID-19 warriors.

He emphasized that this is a fight of every Filipino, and that discipline is the most important value needed today, which must be ingrained to everyone.

The DoH head also highlighted how the BIDA Solusyon campaign is a very important and crucial behavior change campaign. The victory of the Philippines in this war against the pandemic rests on its success.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, MVP group’s chairman commented, “The gratitude is ours for giving us a chance to help the government and the people. We are privileged to be part of this initiative and be in the frontline in the battle against COVID-19.”

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Commentary

Epic evil should stop

The PhilHealth scandal is much bigger than any ordinary government misdeal since placed at risk are the future of Filipino children and of course, the nation itself.

TEB

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Despicable is the fact that the backlash from the stealing of public funds intended for the health services will penalize even Filipino children and deprive them of a good future.

A World Bank study on human capital made it clear that the Philippines lacks investments in health and education which is made worse since the capital put in is made even smaller through corruption.

The Philippines has a human capital index of 0.52 based on the study. It means that children will not realize nearly half of their potential to prepare them for adulthood which also translates to the economy missing 50 percent of contribution from the labor force.

“While successive governments in the Philippines have enacted human capital development laws, they have generally failed to provide adequate financing to ensure effective implementation,” according to the World Bank paper.

The Philippines, the study says, allocates to health and education programs 4.4 and 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) respectively, which are way below the 6.5 and 4.5 percent global average.

Those are investments in the future that are imperative since the Philippines is among countries in the so-called demographic sweetspot where majority of its population are young and are expected to provide the impetus for strong growth.

Consider also that based on the estimate of some past officials, the state health insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) loses an estimated P50 billion to corruption each year.
The amount which should have provided children education and assured their health only went into the pockets of an opportunistic few.

Greed thus overcame the prospects of a good future for the nation.

The dearth of funds resulted in understaffed and overcrowded clinics and schools, underpaid providers, inadequate infrastructure and a lack of administrative and technical capacity, according to the multilateral lender.

The WB also noted hampered efforts to improve governance.

“Widespread fraud in the distribution of textbooks, theft of funds or supplies, and ghost workers in municipal health facilities are all reflected in the country’s outcomes,” it added.

The effects are magnified by the pandemic as marginal families and other vulnerable sectors become largely dependent on government assistance since many Filipinos lost their jobs or businesses.

Also placed at risk are decades of progress in building human capital, including improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment and reduced stunting, the WB research stated.

Low outturn from productivity also puts at risk efforts to lay the foundation for sustainable, inclusive recoveries and future growth.

The PhilHealth scandal is much bigger than any ordinary government misdeal since placed at risk are the future of Filipino children and of course, the nation itself.

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Commentary

Green means opportunity

Concept News Central

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One of the good things that sprouted out of the unprecedented mess that is the COVID-19 pandemic is the new entrepreneurship among Filipinos.

From hobbies or skills learned out of sheer boredom during the quarantine weeks arose business ideas that are now taking root and blossoming.

Lately, green thumbs have gained quite some mileage, not just for the lucrative livelihood they found but also for the accompanying “pests” that came with the season.

Before the pandemic, trees were being cut or relocated to give way to urbanization. In fact, agricultural lands were being rumored to be snapped up by capitalists in the name of housing and development. Some billionaires in our midst are said to have been profiting hugely from lands bought at a pittance while farmers get displaced or are told to plant kamote (sweet potato).

The advent of the coronavirus changed some things, however; from the urban populace ignoring nature around them (or what had been left of it) came a sudden surge of interest in gardening, whether for food or for mental wellness.

Ornamental agriculture became a “thing,” with an increasing horde getting into the business of growing plants for decorative purposes and landscape design, to herbal gardens and vegetable farming. New modes of city farming gained more interest, such as hydroponics or aquaponics.

And just like before — after online sales boomed, and also when a significant increase in bicycle and motorcycle usage (to cope with lack of public transportation during quarantine) was noted, government came in with calls for regulation.

Taxing online businesses received a backlash, with government accused of killing micro-entrepreneurs before they can even grow. The issue on bicycle registration also got some of the same reaction, as people are ever more sensitive to shelling out money not just because we are in the midst of hard times, but also because many no longer trust the way government has handled public funds.

In recent news, an agriculturist from the Bureau of Plant Industry, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, thinks an accreditation process should be in place for all seller “plantitos” and “plantitas” out there.

The terms plantitos and plantitas were coined out of the words “plant” and “uncles or aunties” and gained some “cool” factor from the range of personalities that went into the hobby.

Perhaps because the pandemic had been able to spread more seeds of doubt against the capability, efficiency and motivations of our public servants, the mere suggestion of regulation — no matter how well-intentioned – caused some of the optimism gained from ornamental gardening to drop.

It’s all very well “to make ornamental agriculture an official, regulated industry within the farm sector,” as that report went, but let’s ensure this tiny seedling of an industry is nurtured and protected enough to flourish even more.

As it is, there are related issues that have to be dealt with pronto, including the illegal poaching of plants up north, a well-known source of plants that are commercially sold, as well as the protection of the environment.

Some “plant thieves” had reportedly “nearly wiped out the Montsera or Swiss Cheese plants long inhabiting the Mines View Park and Burnbham Park,” a CNN article says. It has been enough to cause new terms to grow “a plantdemic” and “plantvestigators” to put a stop to this needless profiteering.

A deluge of plant grabbers and land grabbers may land us all in deep waters. Oh, wait, even those are in contention these days.

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