Respect the COVID tally, just do better
POSTSCRIPT - Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star) - August 9, 2020 - 12:00am

The cold numbers look objective enough. Malacañang should just accept the fact, as shown by the official figures, that the Philippines has overtaken Indonesia in their number of COVID-19 cases and is now No. 1 in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations tally.

These are the COVID-19 numbers of the Philippines (population 109,722,719) and Indonesia (population 273,808,365) as of Friday, Aug. 07, 2020, 16:14 GMT, in the worldOmeter website:

*Against total population. Total cases: PHL 122,754/ IDN 121,226; New cases: 3,379/ 2,473; Total deaths: 2,168/ 5,593; New deaths: +24/ +72; Total cases recovered: 66,852/77,557; Active cases: 53,734/38,076; Serious cases: 239/No entry; Total tests: 1,703,805/1,663,315.

*Per 1-million population. Cases: PHL 1,119/IDN 443; Deaths: 20/20; Tests: 15,528/6,075.

We included in the comparative listing the per one-million-population figures and the total number of tests performed because of the argument that (1) the bigger the population the bigger the number of cases recorded, and (2) the more tests performed the more cases will be uncovered.

With the above figures, officially reported by the Philippine and the Indonesian governments themselves, it seems that indeed the Philippines has overtaken Indonesia in their total number of cases – whether based on their total population or on a per-one-million population basis.

Our unsolicited advice to Malacañang is to review and upgrade its anti-COVID action plan, if any, and not simply wait for a vaccine to come around to prevent more contamination. While prevention (vaccination) is good, better look also for a cure for those already infected.

It might help if the militaristic approach to the crisis is augmented by one that is more appropriate to the public health problem.

Remember also that honesty generates trust and motivates people to cooperate. It’s better than scaring or blaming them for supposedly being pasaway (stubborn).

• No total ban on joining sea drills with US

President Duterte did not order a total ban on the Philippine armed forces joining military exercises involving the United States.

In fact, the Navy’s newest warship, the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), is en route to Hawaii on its first major deployment to join the world’s biggest maritime military exercise, the US-led Rim of the Pacific 2020.

The BRP Jose Rizal is one of two multi-role ships procured in 2016 from South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries at a cost of P16 billion. It was commissioned into service early July before it was prepared for the RIMPAC 2020 set Aug. 17-31.

This is the second time the Navy is sending its own ship to Honolulu. The first was in 2018. In previous years, the Philippines was only an observer. This year’s contingent is led by Naval Task Group 80.5 commander Capt. Jerry Garrido Jr., also the commander of the BRP Jose Rizal.

Held every two years, RIMPAC is hosted by the US Navy’s Indo-Pacific Command. It seeks to enhance interoperability critical to safety and security among participating armed forces. Some nations invited this year will not join because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philippine participation in maritime exercises has been in the news since Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday that, to reduce tension in the South China Sea, President Duterte ordered the AFP not to join drills in the waterway roiled by disputes.

“President Duterte has a standing order to us, to me, that we should not involve ourselves in naval exercises in the South China Sea except our national waters, the 12-mile distance from our shores,” Lorenzana said.

The frigate’s deployment, however, is not in the South China Sea, but in the Pacific. Hawaii is some 19,864 nautical miles east of Subic Bay, where the ship sailed from on July 29 after a send-off led by Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Navy chief.

Bacordo remarked that RIMPAC 2020 would be a chance to simulate and test the capabilities of the new frigate: “Whatever imperfections of this ship would be drawn to the attention of the contractor while they are still in warranty period.”

He was referring to the debate in 2017 over the ship’s combat management systems’ compatibility with Link 16, a military tactical data network used by the US and its allies to resist jamming and improve monitoring of battlespace operations.

The President’s order to the AFP not to join other navies in maritime exercises in the South China Sea was hailed by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, who said: “We appreciate President Duterte’s remarks and stand ready to properly resolve maritime disputes with the Philippines through friendly consultations to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and the entire region.”

He was further quoted in their state media as saying that China’s position on the South China Sea issue has been “consistent and clear.” He added: “As has been proven, properly handling this issue is in the interest of both China and the Philippines and regional peace and stability.”

In Manila, Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. advised the Chinese official not to get too excited. He tweeted: “Wang, you’re reading too much into a simple directive not to join these naval exercises in the SCS at this time.

“As for ‘properly handling this issue is in the interest of both China and the Philippines and regional peace and stability,’ define ‘properly.’ The Philippine position has been ‘consistent and clear’.

“What is ours is ours under the Arbitral Award and no one else can tell us different. Our relations have been going really well. Let’s keep it that way. We’re sitting out this one, we don’t know if we will the next one. OK?”

*      *      *

Nota Bene: All Postscripts are archived at manilamail.com. Author is on Twitter as @FDPascual. Feedback can be emailed to fdp333@yahoo.com

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