How “VaccSCENE” and “VaccSIN” may not spare the Philippines the fate of India

by Bobby Reyes

“Fight Against COVID-19 – Pourakarmika” | Photo by Trinity Care via Flickr/Creative Commons 

Part XIII of “The Filipino Melting Pot” Series

The Philippines’ top envoy to the US, Amb. Babe Romualdez wrote in his column in this publication last Saturday that “Operating on the principle of ‘Give what you can, take only what you need,’ these community pantries demonstrate bayanihan or the true Filipino spirit of communal unity and solidarity to help lift their fellowmen. This bayanihan spirit also makes Filipinos stand out wherever they may be, as it displays their willingness to go the extra mile to help others without expecting anything in return. This is why Filipino-Americans are very much appreciated and highly respected in the United States.” To read his well-written column in its entirety, please click on this link.

While reading his column, I started to form an acronym that would describe an ideal proactive Filipino response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I came up with “VaccSCENE,” and it stands for “Vaccination Simplified by Cooperative Entities for National Empowerment.”

I included “national empowerment” because the fight against the pandemic must be a war against viruses and bacteria and the many social cancers such as poverty caused by unemployment, homelessness, etcetera. Ergo, the end is not only to survive the current pandemic but also to establish medium-to-long-term socioeconomic development for the survivors, as I laid down in Chapter XII of this series.

All Filipinos must come together as one nation and fight the pandemic together. The national government, especially the Congress of the Philippines, must use the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to save the country from perdition, as I mentioned in Part X of this series. The DAP is a “special” budget allocated to accelerate or hasten a government project without the House of Representatives’s or Senate’s approval. Congress agreed to this arrangement because its members get ample funds that they use for infrastructure projects in their district or anywhere in the nation for the senators — without necessarily getting the approval of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

“All Filipinos must come together as one nation and fight the pandemic together. The national government, especially the Congress of the Philippines, must use the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to save the country from perdition, ...

The DAP replaced the traditional pork barrel and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and other discretionary funds for the national government. According to a report, the budget for the DAP typically exceeds half a trillion (spelled with a T) pesos per fiscal year. Or the equivalent in greenbacks of US$ 16.5 billion (spelled with a B) per annum. The whole amount would have been enough to buy the much-needed vaccines to inoculate 90 million Filipinos in 90-to-180 days (as per the idea described in Part XII of this series). And enough funds left to acquire more equipment and even a state-of-the-art R&D Center plus factories to manufacture the vaccines (initially under license) and computers for all the medical professionals and medical/nursing students. Suppose the Philippines used the DAP to fight the pandemic in the fiscal years of 2020, 2021, and for the next five years. For what is the use of building lots of infrastructures such as country roads and bridges when — due to the pandemic — the dead and dying have no use for them? More so if the Philippines follows in the footsteps of India.

India is now the leading country when it comes to new COVID-19 cases and eventually in fatalities. Please read this latest report from Marketwatch.com about the virus-caused tragedy in India.

“For what is the use of building lots of infrastructures such as country roads and bridges when — due to the pandemic — the dead and dying have no use for them? More so if the Philippines follows in the footsteps of India.”

I posted an Intro Note in my Facebook timeline about the sad news reported by Marketwatch.com. I commented that “India has a far-superior economy and a healthcare system that is one of the best in Asia. India is a nuclear power with atomic bombs. And it does space exploration using its own rockets and satellites. Its 1.2-billion population is a drag to the economy and the healthcare system. On the other hand, the Philippines, with a tenth of India’s population, faces a similar problem with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

India is the home to some of the world’s largest manufacturers of vaccines. In Part XI of this series, I reported that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is backing the world’s largest vaccine maker, Serum Institute of India. It is supposed to churn out 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine for poorer countries and price them less than $3.

According to recent reports, more than a quarter of the population living in rural areas of India is below the poverty line. Out of the total population living in the rural parts of India, 25.7 percent are living below the poverty line. In contrast, in the urban areas, the situation is a bit better, with 13.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the full year 2018’s poverty incidence among the population — or the proportion of poor Filipinos whose per-capita income is not sufficient to meet their basic food and non-food needs — was estimated at 16.6 percent. Although some Filipino economists opine that poverty is even higher than 30% or nearly double the government statistic. Both the national economy of India and the Philippines suffered several downturns in 2020 due to the pandemic.

As I reported on Dec. 30, 2020, in this column, Metro Manila is the world’s capital of homelessness (with a homeless population of 3.1-million), while Mumbai (India) ranks third with only 60,000 homeless (out of a population of 18.5-million). Readers can recheck my citation of the world’s top five cities regarding homelessness.

I hope that I am dead wrong in predicting that the Philippines may also suffer the fate of India. But what if my educated guess is correct? Then it may lead to the other acronym that I thought of while reading Ambassador Romualdez’s exciting and well-researched column. The second acronym is “VaccSIN.” It means “Vaccine for a Simpleminded and Impoverished Nation.” And it does not cost even a cent to acquire. It is free, as leaders of that nation can make it available by just issuing press releases.

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