DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2021 - 12:00am

We Filipinos have a high tolerance for incompetence and the confusion it brings. That’s why messy governance no longer raises our collective blood pressure. Some may complain, but quickly realize confusion is par for the course in this country. Onli in da Pilipins, we like to say as we shake our heads.

Still, past administrations made token efforts to reduce the confusion and to speak with one voice, as much as possible. They were not always successful, but there was at least a recognition of a standard of performance to aspire for.

But not the Duterte administration. They make no effort to minimize confusion. Except for the economic managers led by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, they still seem to be on OJT mode after five years.

Former socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia said that he decided to quit because of poor orchestration within the government on policy approaches amid the raging COVID-19 crisis.

“When the orchestra is not well orchestrated, then you have a little problem,” Pernia said.

For the longest time, the economic managers have been all but ignored in the policy making IATF.

Even on simpler things like whether or not to still wear a face shield, the Duterte administration is confused.

Duterte, according to Harry Roque, said a face shield is no longer necessary except in hospital settings. And Roque said what the President says is the policy.

Health Secretary Duque, however, quickly said he would appeal the presidential order because “any layer of protection is better than less protection.”

DOH Usec Leopoldo Vega said it is okay not to wear it outside because the risk of transmission is very low.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said face shields are still required and they will run this policy through at the next IATF meeting.

So, ano ba talaga? I don’t mind it either way. Because I am paranoid about the virus, I will still use it even if there is just nine percent protection.

For one thing, a correctly designed face shield also protects the eyes, a potential entry point for the virus. I recall an infectious disease doctor saying that he caught the virus on a long flight because he didn’t have the proper eye protection.

But I agree too that the run-of-the-mill face shields meant to merely comply with the requirement probably does little good. And the fogging could be an annoyance or a problem.

Another kind of chaos or confusion arises from the proclivity of bureaucrats to make rules that looks like another unreasonable layer of red tape that just makes things difficult for people.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, in a Senate hearing, complained about paragraph B of IATF Resolution 120, series of 2021, which stated that aside from the vaccination card, a fully vaccinated individual must carry a certification issued by the DICT or the city health officer. Such certification is needed for travel here or abroad.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque claimed during the hearing he was not sure if the policy is being implemented already.

“It confuses our people,” the Senator said. “There’s already a vaccine card, and you still require certification?”

The rule was supposedly justified as a means to validate vaccination claims because vaccination cards are easily faked. There is also no standard format for such cards among the different LGUs.

One also wonders if the DICT has a computer data base of all vaccinated people. The LGUs are the ones with the records, and the vaccination cards already have the certification of local health officers. It says so in my card.

A Pinoy commented on Facebook: “I am in the US. Here, all vaccination centers use the same vaccination card which is prescribed by the CDC. The form is universal (same size, format, and information required) and is used throughout the US.

“As regards the certification required, what will the certifying authority base the certification on? Is there an independent record of the vaccination other than the LGU and/or vaccination card?

“If there is none and still a certification is required, inevitably it will be based on the vaccination card. And that is where the money-making schemes could be ‘hatched’.”

Sometimes, the failure to explain the rationale for rules cause confusion and loss of confidence in government. Consider this comment going around in social media:

“It is such a hassle to arrive in the Philippines from abroad. As soon as plane arrives, we have to wait INSIDE the airplane for a doctor and his staff to check everyone’s temperature and vaccination records.

“The most STUPID thing is that vaccination from the USA is not considered as grounds for a shorter quarantine of seven days. Only vaccinations in the Philippines can grant you seven days!

“I showed the doctor my single Makati Med vaccine shot and two Pfizer shots from the US.  He has to follow rules daw, even as he understands my position, so, 10 days quarantine!

“Told him that starting June 16, supposedly vaccinations from abroad would merit seven days quarantine only. Finally, he gave me two email addresses where I can appeal our case for shorter quarantine!

“Then, we were ushered to the airport room where THEY MADE SURE that we PRE-PAY the SWAB test to be conducted on the seventh day!

“The clear money maker is that WE PAY this DETOXICARE company na never-heard! We found out that Detoxicare contracts out the job: for example, one of them is Makati Med! They are agents only! Ay naku!

“Since we are on quarantine, we cannot take outside transportation... They contracted ALL TRANSFERS to an outside company or companies... not from the hotel... the cheapest of which cost P2200. A van costs 3500. Maybe crony ni Duts or his cohorts. They think siguro that we are all so stupid...”

Our government must explain why the vaccination done in the US is not recognized. Maybe they should have allowed the Red Cross to also do the swab test to give people a choice.

So many things to do right. I see Sonny Dominguez as the only one in the Duterte administration with the ability to orchestrate and reduce the chaos and confusion. Most of the rest are still on OJT.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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