What independence should mean to us

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2020 - 12:00am

Every June 12, we commemorate that day when the Philippine flag was unfurled in Cavite, proudly flying as we declared our independence from Spanish colonial rule. Our forebears fought against foreign oppression, their blood and sacrifice the price that was paid for the freedom and democracy that we have today.

What the COVID-19 pandemic has done was to curtail the freedom of people to do so many things that perhaps they may have taken for granted: going out, traveling, visiting friends, even the simple act of hugging their loved ones and talking to them face to face. 

Filipinos are known for their determination and resilience. They have an indomitable spirit that has always helped them pull through any adversity. And just as we had heroes in the past who fought and sacrificed their lives so that we may obtain freedom and sovereignty as a nation, we also have heroes today in the person of many frontliners who are putting their lives on the line to fight this virulent, unseen enemy that has brought many nations all over the world down on their knees.  

During our Philippine Independence Day celebration in Washington, D.C., Filipino communities from across the United States came together in a virtual celebration – the biggest and first ever through Facebook Live – and paid tribute to the Filipino frontliners all over the world who go above and beyond the call of duty, embodying courage, dedication, selflessness and strength of character during this global crisis.  

Ideally, real independence means a nation can do things on its own without having to rely on others, able to protect the people from both internal and external threats. The situation today however is proving truth to the adage that “no man is an island.” People – or nations for that matter – cannot exist apart from others; they have to work together and depend on each other to survive. 

What the world has seen in the last three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic is a clear sign that nations have to be “interdependent.” The coronavirus does not make any distinction between one country and another. It has cut across international borders, leaving many defenseless and vulnerable.  

Cooperation and collaboration especially among allies have become crucial now more than ever with the virus wreaking socio-economic havoc all across the globe.  Countries like the United States – which is also reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic itself – has donated over P970 million to help the Philippines in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak. Canada, which has over 97,000 confirmed cases of infection and whose economy has also been hit hard, has also provided over P44 million worth of additional donations to help the Philippines and has also provided millions worth of donations to other member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  

Even biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies all over the world are collaborating as they intensify efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, knowing that they are also racing against time. During an online summit, as many as 50 governments have also pledged some $8.8 billion to international organization Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to give children access to immunization and also launched an initiative to help ensure that once a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, it will be made available to all especially poor countries. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who hosted the online summit emphasized the importance of cooperation among nations. “Together, we rise to fulfill the greatest shared endeavor of our lifetimes – the triumph of humanity over disease,” he said. “Today we make the choice to unite, to forge a path of global cooperation,” he also stressed. 

Now more than ever, governments must adhere to multilateralism where cooperation instead of competition is highlighted, because failure to do so could make the situation even more disastrous.  This is also the reason why we should not allow one country to dominate another or take advantage of this pandemic situation to pursue its self-serving agenda. 

Many people have come to me saying that they are not really religious, but they see this global crisis as a sign from God. Many are turning once again to their faith as an anchor in their struggle to make sense of what is happening with many lives being upended. This pandemic is also making people reflect on what is really important in this life, with many realizing that regardless of wealth or fame or power – all these mean nothing when our health is at stake. Health is indeed wealth!

Which is why now more than ever, strong leadership is important to help a nation navigate this pandemic which has been described by many as a crisis of historic proportions, affecting all of us in one way or another. The time has come for people to trust their leaders to work together instead of going against each other. Undoubtedly, all nations must learn from this pandemic and be cooperative in reporting the truth because it will bite them just as hard in the end. 

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It was sad to hear about former Foreign Affairs Secretary Jun Yasay’s passing. He was a good personal friend of mine and I know he was very well liked by so many. It was actually Jun who pushed me to accept this job in Washington and I’m glad I did, because it has become both fulfilling and rewarding to be able to serve one’s country especially during this health crisis when we need to work with friends and allies like the United States. Farewell, Jun! May you rest in peace.

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Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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