Better late than later

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

My “Kuya” and senior columnist Boo Chanco recently shared an article with me concerning the decision/announcement of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) and DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista that electrical extension cords will now be allowed as a carry-on article. Prior to this, extension cords were not allowed as hand carry items and erroneously labeled as “power tools.”

After a couple of days, news came out that Senators JV Ejercito and Raffy Tulfo took turns questioning why PhilHealth has not properly covered dental health in its programs. As a result, Ejercito is now proposing legislation to correct the discrepancy in health care. Like I said, “better late than later.”

I have written about these concerns repeatedly in previous years, but it seems that the incubation period for action takes longer than to hatch an egg, or it shows that Senate staffers don’t read newspapers and opinion columns, or the pool for controversy must have dried up.

I guess interrogating a “Bot” or “AI” that has a defective memory disc can be frustrating and fruitless. Maybe they should have hooked up the “Bot” to a lie detector machine during the hearing. Unfortunately, the “Bot” might get away with saying “I can no longer remember that, your honor.”

In any case, I am thankful that senators have acted on the dental care lapse of the PhilHealth law and that Secretary Jimmy Bautista and his team recognize the practicality and logic of allowing airline passengers to hand carry extension cords. In fact, Sec. Bautista correctly pointed out that such extension cords come in handy at airports where electrical outlets are far, far, far and few in between for passengers.

As I pointed out to NAIA representatives last year, journalists and IT nomads rely on their dedicated equipment such as multi-plug extension cords that have numerous USB charging ports because many hotels, Airbnb, etc. don’t have enough and correct electrical outlets, especially if you are a team of three or a family on the road.

Given this positive outcome, may I suggest to Secretary Jimmy Bautista to assign a roving suggestion solicitor or people who can gather feedback and suggestions on how to better improve service.

As far the dental health lapse in the PhilHealth law is concerned, senators might want to really study and investigate the state of dental health, from kindergarten to high school. During interviews I conducted among dental health proponents, I learned that half if not most of the causes of malnutrition among toddlers and kids is because they have tooth decay and infections that make eating a very painful experience. This why many of them continue to suckle or drink milk and soups only.

Unlike the school days of our senators when dental health and cleanliness were in the program, that seems to be limited nowadays. If we want dental care to be a habit, we need to start them young and sustain the activity. Because of COVID the focus was on handwashing hygiene but not much on brushing teeth. Many schools might not even have running or safe water. Are school kids required to bring their toothbrush and toothpaste to school?

Do companies provide or promote the same in offices, factories and construction sites? Back in the late 1980’s I was into resort construction and development in Northern Palawan. During that time, I learned that the nearest hospital and dental clinic was about an hour by banca and two hours over land. Given the challenges, I simply radioed our office and asked them to send about 100 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste and analgesics.

As expected, the accountants crackled back a few days later and questioned why the company had to provide toothbrushes and toothpaste. I pointed out the logistical challenge of sending carpenters or master masons three hours away one way, and the wisdom of preventing tooth decay and gum infections on an island in the middle of nowhere! Any smart accountant immediately recognizes how cost effective all of that can be in terms of dental care, work stoppage and cost in project delay.

The lapse of dental health coverage in the PhilHealth law actually shows the Filipino attitude towards dental health. Many are scared of dentists due to associated pain; many avoid dental visits due to costly fees and charges, and it is not included in the daily health narrative of society. We talk of cancer, aneurysm, STDs, but we rarely compare notes about trips to the dentist that now cost an arm and a leg for root canal.

Senators should also check things at the barangay level, where the current mode of treatment is extraction and giving pain killers (if at all). Or relying on the many “dental missions” that dentists tell me have made the problem of tooth decay even worse because poor folks simply wait for the dental mission or go to an albularyo with pliers, a bottle of gin and twine! Thank you nonetheless to Secretary Bautista and Senators Ejercito and Tulfo.

Incidentally, there is an event at the SMX Convention Center today and tomorrow (May 20 & 21) called “Solar and Storage.” Would it be too much to ask our legislators to attend the event in the hope that doing so will also make them legislate laws that will make it easier and more affordable for farmers, producers, households to install units for solar power generation as well as water distribution.

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