WE HAVE NOT ASKED NOR HAVE A PASS to the inner labyrinths of the minds of Governor Art Yap and his closest advisers, but we have a hint.
Not necessarily meant to be a compliment, Capitol’s recent decision is a serious, delicate balancing act of governance when faced with twin perils with a “damn if you do and damn if you don’t” policy choices. But a choice has to be made because not doing anything is already a choice.
Five days is probably the minimum acceptable “health days” the local government will allow for its citizens to be tested- after which they will have to be released in order for them to earn their keeps and work productively as part of the Bohol economy.
There is a crucial point – a dividing line where perhaps beyond that, the government thinks it is already taxing the economy needlessly aside from the stranglehold it does on the fragile health care system we have.
But what if the infections rise instead and the boomerang proves the cure wrong? It is a possibility that’s why the position is called “calculated” and it poses danger as well that is why the policy choice is called a “risk”. A calculated risk. That is our educated guesstimation- and we could be wrong about the real reasons.
Besides, it seems Capitol is taking the cue from the DOH (Department of Health) that says that the fifth is a good day to do the PCR testing. It, thus, leans on some science in this difficult decision.
Perhaps reading the second Editorial below can help one understand better just in what avenues leading to (figurative) hell has the country descended into because of the pandemic. And understand why leaders do what they do.
We know that many Boholanos are wondering why the government can afford to lower their health protocol and increase the risk level. Of course, we learned that arriving OFWs and LSIs are now departing from their ports of origin even without the normal 14-day quarantine and are allowed to depart to their provinces after a negative result rapid test on the 5th day.
They lament what was eliminated from the basic protocols were the conduct of the reliable swab PCR test and the 14-day quarantine. Do some entertain this notion that this lowering of protocols seems to indicate that perhaps the national government has undisclosed medical findings that the virus has gone weaker and thus allows more liberal protocols? They ask.
Almost simultaneous to this came the recent ruling of the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force of reducing the quarantine period to 5 instead of 14 if found negative with the virus.
While many commend the opening of the first PCR laboratory at the Gallares Memorial Hospital, not everyone is comfortable that we have not enough safety net standards to protect the populace from a spreading virus.
In fact, they cite that the Bohol Medical Society has stood firm on its medical stand that it should be on the 8th day, not on the 5th that the swab PCR test is conducted as it is on this day of quarantine that the highest percentage probability of detecting the virus would be.
To a sizable number of people -three days is a very much significant life-or-death situation for would-be victims and the populace that they will possibly infect – they reason.
But since the medical cluster of the Bohol IATF does not want to pursue a public debate on whether its 5th or 8th day, they politely are “respecting” the Capitol’s decision for a 5th-day sampling.
If the “calculated risk” is found faulty and results in a tremendous number of new infections, Capitol must be statesmanlike enough to admit its error and recalibrate policy protocols at that point.
But -whatever happens, let us still “heal as one”.And pray harder-now, more than ever.
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2021 BUDGET AIMS FOR RECOVERY
THE NATIONAL 2020 BUDGET, has been supplemented, realigned and even covered by the “Bayanihan Act” that will liberally allow fund transfers (without being sued for technical malversation) to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
Perhaps most are assuming a savior -a vaccine (not necessarily Russia’s Sputnik) will be in place in a reasonably near future that the 2021 National Budget is aimed primarily to bring back the shattered Philippine economy into recovery.
The Philippines is in a recession now- with two successive negative growth rate quarters ending with a semestral GDP dive of 9%- dealing the country losses of over a trillion pesos in business income and salaries.
The government economists predict a yearly (2020) GDP negative growth of only 3-4%. We find that hard to believe because statistically in the second semester the economy must have to register a positive 12-13% growth rate to achieve that annual negative 3-4%. With the lockdowns in key areas still in place (even to this August), it seems like an unlikely estimate.
Be that as it may, the Lower House passed an unprecedented P4.5 Trillion budget for 2021 with some P 1.310Trillion addressed for infrastructure representing 5.3% of the GDP. Without the Covid-19 government was aiming for an infra budget equal to 7% of GDP ratio to create millions of jobs especially in the countryside up the year 2022.
Due to budget realignments in 2020, that ratio drops to 4.6% of GDP canceling prospective employment on top of the already frightening job losses. The need to fight Covid-19 continues.
There is still a 2021 budget allocation for the procurement of more PPEs, purchase of vaccines (in the millions to be injected here), educational learning continuity with a combination of distance and face-to-face types necessitating investment in digital technology and the like. And of course, food security and livelihood especially in the countrysides.
Simultaneous with the passing of the 2021 Budget, Congress had target-specific new bills (to be passed into law) which detail an Editorial space will not suffice. It is germane to mention three of the acronyms and their meanings: ARISE ( Accelerated Recovery and Investment Stimulus for the Economy), CREATE (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Act) and CURES ( Covid-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus).
They will have to be funded within the 2021 National Budget although some of the items are multi-year in disbursements. But there are limits.
While the budget deficit (government income less expenditures) will be reduced from 8.4% in 2020 to 6.6% in 2021 as government recoups on its taxing and earning capabilities, the debt level is on harm’s way- proving one cannot borrow forever.
With this 2021 Budget, the debt/GDP ratio of the country will climb from 2020’s 49.8% to 2021’s 51.5%, exceeding the 50% of GDP mean as observed by our comparable ASEAN nations and developing economies. Exceeding that 50% mean-could make international rating agencies (Fitch,, Moodys, etc) to get jaundiced eyes looking at RP and could diminish our investment grade and increase our cost of borrowings with higher interest rates.
When President Digong Duterte says we cannot lockdown forever as we have no more money, he was not kidding. We gathered that 90% of the 202o budget has been already disbursed (though not actually spent or distributed) early in July.
Fighting Covid-19 has no -kidding dried up our coffers. We must make sure a vaccine is in town by 2021 otherwise, the 2021 National Budget will have to be reassessed midstream next year. God forbid.
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