Tomorrow, 9 April, we commemorate the gallant defense of Bataan by Filipino and American troops during World War II. Originally named as Bataan Day and declared a holiday through Republic Act 3022 in 1961, it was renamed Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) as part of Executive Order 203 in 1987.
World War II was considered as the worst crisis the country had ever faced. For close to four years the country was at war. It was a time of extreme physical and economic suffering for Filipinos.
It was also a time when the Filipinos, through their continuous resistance to the Japanese forces, through their valor and heroism, were at their finest. It was such that General Douglas MacArthur supposedly said “Give me 10,000 Filipinos and I will conquer the world.”
Today, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the country is facing the worst crisis since World War II. The virus has not only caused suffering to those who have contracted it, but also to the families of the sick.
As a consequence of the pandemic and the measures required to contain it, the economy has been severely damaged.
The economic impact is not simply a matter of negative GDP (gross domestic product) but more painfully, directly hits the finances of families and individuals.
Though vaccines are already available, the number required for the pandemic to be contained and for the economy to get back on track has not yet been attained. The bulk of the vaccines is expected to arrive third and fourth quarter of the year.
The long-term effects of the pandemic and its damage to the economy cannot accurately be determined at this point in time. The only thing we are sure of is that the effects will definitely not be short term.
In the midst of the health and economic crisis, along with the problems the individual Filipino faces on a daily basis, we have a security issue that the majority of Filipinos may not be truly aware of. This is the mooring of over 200 Chinese maritime militia vessels near Julian Felipe Reef, which is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, supposedly seeking shelter due to adverse weather and sea conditions.
According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, the Chinese vessels seemed to be in a “phalanx formation.” This incursion is not only a matter of sovereignty, but has economic and environmental implications as well.
The area has considerable marine resources and overfishing will adversely impact on the economic resources of the country and its maritime environment.
Today, the country faces its worst crises since World War II. As our forefathers stood up, faced their crisis with valor and surmounted such, so should we today.
There is no better proof of Filipino valor today than that being shown by our health care workers who face the virus daily so that they may save other people’s lives. Many of them have gotten sick and several have even given their lives in this fight.
Everyone exposing themselves on the ground, or doing work behind the scenes through research, funding or other means to help prevent the spread of the virus or treat it, are our heroes.
On the economic front, we have our entrepreneurs, managers and workers who are braving the threat of Covid-19 to run the businesses, the factories and other economic institutions to provide for themselves and their families and ultimately, for the nation’s economy.
On the security front, our Secretary of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest against China’s incursion in the West Philippine Sea.
The Secretary of National Defense sent 12 FA-50 Philippine Air Force fighter jets to monitor the movements of the Chinese vessels.
Philippine Navy and Coast Guard vessels were likewise mandated to conduct sovereignty patrols and protect Filipino fishermen in the area.
In an official statement released last 3 April, the Secretary of National Defense told the Chinese, “Umalis na kayo diyan.”
Personally, I would recommend that we also send over 200 ships (military and private) and occupy the area. I myself commit to join.
Today is a time for valor.