A historic Zoom interview with Taiwan’s VP
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - June 1, 2020 - 12:00am

For our special presentation on our talk show “Straight from the Sky”, we again bring you Dr. Rene Bullecer to discuss the effects of COVID-19 and the nearly three-month closure of all our churches. In my 69 years, this is the first time we have ever experienced the closure of our churches. The first time that we had a Holy Week that wasn’t as holy. The first time for us to spend Easter Sunday at home and Divine Mercy Sunday praying only via TV streaming.

This is why after interviewing local officials; I had to bring back Dr. Bullecer to represent the lay people. So watch this very interesting interview tonight on SkyCable’s channel 53 at 8 p.m. with replays on Wednesday and Saturday same time and channel. We also have replays on MyTV’s channel 30 at 9 p.m. Monday and at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Wednesday and Friday.

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I actually started writing this column at 5:30 p.m. on Friday May 29 just 30 minutes after the Zoom meeting we had in PAREF Springdale School Facebook page entitled, “Virtual Get Together: Surviving the Pandemic; Learning from the Taiwan experience.” with former Taiwan vice president Dr. Chen Chien-jen who is a Doctor of Science in Human Genetics, a Doctor of Science in Epidemiology, head of the National Science Council (2006-2008), vice president of Academia Sinica (2011-2015) and vice president of Taiwan (2016-2020). This was hosted by our good friend, Mitch Alforque. This was upon the invitation of my good friend Chris Go, a planetary imager. There were a lot of friends who joined us, including Archbishop Jose Palma who led the opening prayer.

It was somewhat historic for me as it was really the first time in my 33 years as a journalist to join a digital conference with a high-ranking Taiwan public official. I’d like to emphasize that among the nations of the world, I have always written in my columns for the Philippines to only look at only two nations, Taiwan and Japan, in the way they fought COVID-19 and last Friday’s talk with Dr. Chen proved that if only we learned from Taiwan, we wouldn’t be in our current position today.

Mind you, Dr. Chen is a Doctor of Science in Epidemiology and before he was vice president, he was on top of the SARS outbreak in 2003 and that taught him so many lessons on how to deal with COVID-19. He first came up with a video statement of what he had been doing when COVID-19 suddenly appeared. He told us that what is the most important thing is for us to be transparent and honest. All information about the epidemic should be accurate and readily available.

Taiwan carried out aggressive contact tracing. He pointed out this is where honesty and transparency is crucial so that when people come into contact with people they can traced. Where they met is also important to stop the spread of the virus. But how can there be accurate information when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a memorandum last Jan. 17, 2020 that there was no human-to-human contact with this virus…only to change their tune two weeks later!

What was wonderful in that teleconference was that Dr. Chen agreed to hear questions from his audience. One of the most interesting and intriguing was posed by my kidney surgeon, Dr. Alvin Roxas who asked whether or not mass testing in Cebu should be adopted. Dr. Chen told us that in Taiwan, mass testing was not done, as at the time they started work on COVID-19 there weren’t so many infected. I guess the same is true in Cebu City. So in the end, we are wasting money and time doing any rapid testing. What’s important is to make sure any persons who are possibly infected be brought to the Bayanihan Centers for quarantine.

We had an hour-long talk with Dr. Chen and we can only thank him for giving us his valuable time. I was able to ask him a question; on a scale of 1 to 10 how would he score WHO? He didn’t give a score, but he said that in the past WHO was doing a very good job until COVID-19 came when they literally bungled all their statements about the virus. With that conference with Dr. Chen, all the more we should look up to Taiwan to fight COVID-19.

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