Travel bans are sovereign rights
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - February 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Just like the VFA, which appears to have taken precedence in our priorities over the coronavirus, so has the travel ban that the Philippines has been imposing as a consequence of the outbreak of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19 over the disease itself. We should not be debating about whether or not we should impose travel bans or not or how swift it is being imposed or how even swifter it is being lifted.

Such childish debates not only get us nowhere, they distract us from doing what we should be doing against the disease. For one thing, a travel ban is precisely one such measure. Not only is it an accepted and necessary protective national health initiative, it is also a perfectly legal sovereign right any nation on earth can implement.

And a travel ban is not only imposed for national health reasons. Countries can even impose travel bans for political purposes. There was a time not long ago when the Philippine government banned its citizens from traveling to South Africa because of its policy at the time of Apartheid. If you were a holder of a Philippine passport then, you would see the words "Not valid for travel to South Africa" stamped across a page of your passport.

The problem with some people is that they ascribe political reasons to the travel ban for no other reason than that the ban happened during the Duterte administration. One would have thought that a time of national crisis ought to be the perfect time to rally behind the national leader and allow him to do the job for which he was elected.

The problem with some people is that just because they have the freedom to speak and the platform from which to speak, they now think and actually believe they are better than the president. Well, if they think they can do a better job, they should make themselves available to the people in the next election and see if their own relatives trust them enough to even vote for them.

And then there are also the certain types who cannot help equating any government initiative with economic costs. Of course there is always a cost to anything and everything. But an initiative done in the name of health concerns should not be traded off with economic costs. Human life should always be more important than a price tag.

When life is on the line people sell off even their last pair of socks. It is therefore wrong to say a travel ban hurts the economy. Of course it hurts the economy. But a disease allowed to run rampant exacts a more terrible toll on a nation that far outweighs the most dire economic cost anyone can ever imagine.

As the old folks would say, money can always be recovered or found again. But once life is lost, it is gone forever. Given such words of wisdom, validated and revalidated continuously over time, things that are simple and make sense must not be made difficult and complicated just because somebody wants to make a political point.

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