Acronyms to fight COVID-19
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2020 - 12:00am

The 18th Congress is expected to take up priority legislations geared to address the continuing public health crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. By tradition, the ceremonial joint opening sessions of the Senate and the House of Representatives will be again highlighted by the state of the nation address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

But due to the existing public health crisis, President Rodrigo Duterte is likely to deliver his penultimate SONA this July 27 through “virtual” tele-conferencing as the safest mode to avoid COVID-19 infection. Last week, the President’s economic team led by Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III, presented their own pre-SONA reports. Each of them presented their respective Department’s accomplishments last year and plans to finish pending administration’s priority projects.

Likewise, each of the economic managers unveiled a preview of the priority legislative agenda aimed to bring the Philippine economy back to growth track by the time the Duterte administration bows out on June 30, 2020.

As the head of the President’s economic team, Dominguez vowed to strongly push the various “economic stimulus” bills, the majority of which are in various stages at the legislative mills. Dominguez particularly identified as priority the four economic relief bills drafted by the DOF to avert the feared recession of the country’s economy impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Actually, Dominguez first spelled them out during our Kapihan sa Manila Bay Webinar last June 24. At that time, the Finance chief explained these economic bills in broad strokes.

In our subsequent Kapihan sa Manila Bay last week, Senate president Vicente Sotto III acknowledged the four DOF bills that were christened with very catchy names by its principal authors and sponsors in Congress. According to the Senate president, they agreed to pass the four DOF-proposed measures separately instead of putting them together under one “economic stimulus package” billed as Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan-2.

This was recommended by Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the committee on finance, that will shepherd these bills requiring appropriations to fund these measures. The Bayanihan-2 bill seeks to extend the Bayanihan to Heal As One law that granted the President emergency powers, among other things, to realign the 2020 budget to COVID-related expenditures. The Bayanihan 1 lapsed last June 25.

As originally proposed by the Lower House, it would entail a total of P1.3 trillion worth of measures to spur recovery from the adverse impact of COVID-19 lockdowns that cut the country’s economic growth to near zero. But the DOF bucked the proposed P1.3 trillion as an unrealistic amount because it might result to more government borrowing or resort to new taxes to raise funds for it.

As agreed upon by the DOF with the leaders of Congress, Sotto disclosed, the stimulus package is divided into several bills and taken out of the Bayanihan-2 bill. As it is, the Bayanihan-2 bill was already approved by both chambers of Congress on second reading before they adjourned their first regular sessions last June 5.

So when they convene on SONA day, Sotto announced, the original amount of P140 billion under Bayanihan-2 will be approved on third and final reading in both chambers. Thus, a bicameral conference committee can be convened to consolidate the Senate and House versions immediately after. Another bill being pushed by certain House leaders is seeking to increase the allocation for the proposed P140- billion funding the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act (CURES).

But the agreement is limited only to the following four bills, namely: the proposed Acceleration, Recovery and Investment Stimulus of the Economy Act (ARISE); Financial Institutional Strategic Transfer Act (FIST); Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE).

Unlike the President’s economic team, the police and military implementers of the COVID lockdowns are pretty much straightforward in the use of acronyms. They exempt from the lockdown people classified as APOR, or Authorized Persons Outside Residences. On the other hand, Filipinos caught by the lockdowns elsewhere from their home provinces are collectively called as LSI, or locally stranded individuals.

Not far behind in the acronyms game, the Department of Health (DOH) last week launched their latest public information campaign on how each and every Filipinos can help fight the spread of the COVID-19. To obviously gain the widest public notice, the DOH tapped very popular TV/movie actor Alden Richards as chief endorser.

Known in real life as Richard Faulkerson Jr. is aptly cast in the DOH campaign against COVID-19 dubbed by a catchy acronym “B.I.D.A..” Roughly translated, it means the lead star but it is an acronym that stands for:

B – Bawal walang mask (wear face mask)

I – I-sanitize ang mga kamay (wash your hands)

D –  Dumistansiya ng isang metro (physical distancing)

A – Alamin ang totoong impormasyon (don’t fall for “fake” news)

Much earlier though, Health Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III coined his own anti-COVID acronym to warn that people can catch COVID-19 infection through M.E.N. The M.E.N. stood for the first letters of our orifices through which the virus can enter the body: M-outh, E-yes, and N-ose.

And then, there’s another anti-COVID acronym W.O.W. Likewise, it stood for the first letters of how to avoid COVID-19 infection: W-ash your hands; O-bserve social distancing; and W-ear mask.

But the lockdowns have the most number of acronyms starting from E.C.Q., or enhanced community quarantine.

These creative acronyms make it not only easier to remember but also, I suppose make them easier to follow.

More so, these acronyms could always help remind each and every one of us Filipinos we must do also our duty to fight against being infected by COVID-19.

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