An interview with Taiwan’s VP on the pandemic
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - June 2, 2020 - 12:00am

It is already the second day of June and by now the City of Cebu has began its shift from being under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to a General Community Quarantine (GCQ) like Cebu Province and this is due to our massive lockdown from end of March to end of May. As I’ve always pointed out the number of deaths in Cebu City only reached 12 persons due to COVID-19, and the Department of Health (DOH) has finally admitted that there are far more people who die due to dengue fever and tuberculosis disease.

So for whatever it’s worth, the time has come to restart our ill-fated economy where many small businesses have no choice but to stop their operation. Even if we remained in GCQ for another 15 days, we could not expect that if they start operating again, their business would start blooming again. For instance huge Tourism dependent resorts and hotels like Plantation Bay, Park or Shangri-La may open up, but I doubt if they would even open half their room capacity for as long as international and domestic flights are still not allowed to operate. So for us, whether we were in ECQ or now in GCQ, nothing much has changed for as long as no one in the world can find a suitable vaccine to solve COVID-19.

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Last Friday, we sort of made history in the sense that even while we were at home we participated in a digital Zoom meeting with the Paref Springdale School Facebook page in a conference entitled, “Virtual Get Together: Surviving the Pandemic; Learning from the Taiwan experience.” with no less than former Taiwan vice-president Dr. Chen Chien-jen who is a doctor of science in human genetics, a doctor of science in epidemiology, head of the National Science Council (2006-2008), vice-president Academia Sinica (2011-1015) and vice-president of Taiwan (2016-2020) only a week ago. This was hosted by our good friend, Mitch Alforque. We were only two from the media invited to this conference.

Actually, this was in support of Jun Alcazar who works in Taiwan and is a good friend of Dr. Chen who was recently vice-president but he did not run anymore. In his opening video we learned that Dr. Chen being an Epidemiologist fought the SARS virus in 2003, and because of that they had already experienced the ways to prevent communicable diseases very early. It is a fact that Taiwan communicated to the World Health Organization (WHO) about this virus only last Dec. 31, 2019 but WHO did nothing!

Worst as we already know, WHO followed the propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) saying that this virus does not have any human-to-human transmission, only to change their stand a few weeks later. Yet WHO praised China for doing a wonderful job in alerting the world to this pandemic. But if WHO listened to Taiwan, the world would not have suffered much like it has today with their economies in the doldrums.

For Taiwan fighting COVID-19 meant having an aggressive contact tracing strategy implemented. Dr. Chen pointed out this is where honesty and transparency is crucial, so that when people come into contact with people they can trace each other where they met is important to stop the spread of the virus. But how can there be accurate information when the WHO issued a memorandum on Jan. 17, 2020 that there was no human-to-human contact with this virus, only to change their tune weeks later!

I was able to ask Dr. Chen during the Q & A whether on a scale of 1-10 how he would score WHO on their pronouncements. He gave a very long response saying that WHO in the past did a great job, until this pandemic that he could no longer understand their pronouncements. So at this point, allow me to say that I was correct in asking the IATF to follow what Taiwan has done in fighting this virus even if we still have no vaccine in sight. Nothing like following the best practices with neighbors like Taiwan!

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This is just a follow up to the letter sent last March 25 to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat by my dear friend and brother Arthur Lopez, president of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association PHOA) seeking a response from the DOT and support for its recovery program coursed through Undersecretary Benito Bengzon. I was given a copy of that letter, which was quite long seeking for help from the DOT, but as of today no response was given to Lopez.

Honestly, I expected Sec. Puyat to issue a response to his letter of appeal, but I can’t believe that it took more than three months to respond to the letter. I don’t think that I need to remind the DOT Secretary of PHOA’s major contribution to the Philippine economy and its desire to seek help from the DOT in this time of this global pandemic! Abangan!

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