‘Why do you have to let us die?’
Politics, culture as factors in Covid-19 management
Character and friendship are shown in times of difficulty.
“Why do you have to let us die when there are still ways that we can prevent it? … Laban kami, pero huwag ni’yo kami pabayaan,” Dr. Oscar Tinio asks the Filipinos in an interview. The Philippines has the highest percentage mortality of health workers, with 17 doctors having passed away due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) out of some 90 mortalities as of a few days ago.
It’s not that there’s not the money to buy the personal protective equipment (PPE). It’s the planning, coordination of approvals and logistics, given necessary lead times, turned deadly in a time of crisis. The effects of that lack of pre-planning and fast response systems culture will replay out into the future, just as it had in our history in the Philippine-Spanish War, in Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” in Mamasapano massacre, etc., where our lack of options planning and decision frameworks cost lives, freedoms, justice. Is this lack a general part of the Philippine culture? We do have skilled and dedicated people, just as we see in our health workers today. But those with professional experience in planning and logistics are not used because we do not look for and use the talents appropriate to a function… rather, we tend to pick by position, affiliation, as our lawyers may say, “as legally defined.” In a situation like the pandemic or other massive calamities, the effect is not just an uncompetitive enterprise but lost lives — the solution is not in the laws of men.
“Why do you have to let us die?” is a question asked by many others in the world today in different ways. In a heartrending video, a man tearfully asks the world for help as the doctors in Spain are already deciding to triage, by often no longer giving ventilators to those over 65, in order to be able to save younger patients. Choices are difficult ones and people are dying. Cuba, Iran, Venezuela ask why their medical supplies, even donations are being blocked by the United States. France asks why the US took over medical supplies in China meant for shipment for France. Italy asks the European Union why there was no medical assistance from the union, and thanked China for supplies and doctors donated.
On the whole, countries are helping each other like never before. Working together are the World Health Organization, Bill Gates’ foundations, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Israel, China, Germany, etc. in sharing data, techniques, research. US institutes are also part of the data and academic sharing, although Germany’s Health minister and other officials reported, including in US media, alluding to Trump trying to buy Curevac’s vaccine research for US “exclusive use” or control, and trying to pirate its personnel. China has offered its assistance through donations, information and medical teams to 82 countries, including the Philippines.
The Philippine government now has regular video meetings with the private sector, the major conglomerates and chambers of commerce. The major conglomerates Ayala, SM, JG, MVP, etc. have agreed to suspend rentals, fees, continued to pay salaries where they can, given large donations. The Filipino Chinese communities all over the country have been continually raising funds and distributing goods, just the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry or FFCCCII has already distributed over P250 million in cash and goods all over the country. Organizations under the Ayalas, PCCI group, Anvil, Kaisa, YPO, etc. have been organizing mass feeding and relief goods assistance. Private companies have been donating in the tens of millions, including many Chinese companies and individuals both in the Philippines and from China.
Critics who are offering the least help but a lot of armchair criticism, mostly supposed “think tanks” and critics with the Western view, are hurting the unprecedented cooperations for saving people. Often, there are fake news, sometimes a poor understanding of statistics and terminologies like what is “accurate” or “useful,” which will be explained in another article. While it is true that some well meant donations are not up to of the highest level (not necessarily useless), others were mistaken choices or use method, the great majority have been vastly useful. This is hardly the way to encourage people to help each other or develop better relations. These critics may not realize that doctors in the US are being told not to give information to the public, Navy Captain Crozier has been fired, and Assange has been physically dragged out from a third country by the US — all for telling the truth. Yes, Dr. Li Wen Liang was asked not to make public all info at the beginning, as all governments may do at the beginning (Dr. Li was later honored as a hero). We have to see how quickly and effectively governments eventually move to act in the interests of the greater good, on the overall, as a basis of our assessment.
Balancing life and economics is a difficult decision that a country of our limited means is being forced to decide on, about now. Our political and business leaders are tending towards a continued quarantine but allowing limited activities especially essential ones, while medical leaders seem to be favoring a longer lockdown. There are countries that recovered with continued, if limited activity, so not all countries need a total lockdown like China. But some others that tried a partial lockdown had suffered terrible tolls, the culture of following a discipline and demographics are part of what we can accomplish or not under a given approach.
What should we do? We suggest a few things from the view of operations:
1. Set up Real Time, Full time. Quick response communications and decision protocol and execution systems.
2. Public Private Partnership teams in operations… not just consultation. Recruit teams with skill sets.
3. Customs and Logistics need upgraded computers, training, and increased hours, and need more volume or we may run out of goods including necessities.
4. Simulation studies, together with the private actual operators.
5. Speed up national adoption of digital billing, payments and receipting systems, KYC or Know Your Customer, monitors and ledger systems.
6. Food and all necessities must have bigger buffer.
7. Plan now for increased health strains even after quarantine, as there may be a 2nd wave especially when travel reopens
8. People should spend time learning, and not too much on Facebook, Instagram, teleserye and negative news.
9. All government and legal requirements needs to have deadlines moved, in many cases even private ones.
10. Productivity must be kept up, even at this time.
New Worlds by IDSI (Integrated Development Studies Institute) aims to present frameworks based on a balance of economic theory, historical realities, ground success in real business and communities, and attempt for common good, culture, and spirituality. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks (email@example.com).
**Also published in: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/04/05/opinion/columnists/why-do-you-have-to-let-us-die/709919/