By Ellson Quismorio
The Philippines under the new normal should be littered with hospitals and health centers, particularly in the countryside, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano reckoned.
“If COVID-19 is going to stay with us for the next two years, we will need separate Covid hospitals so that the other hospitals can treat people with other ailments – those with cancer, renal disease, those needing dialysis,” he said in a recent radio interview.
Cayetano said that health experts are predicting that COVID-19 would linger for some time until a cure or a vaccine is developed.
“Anyone who can adapt fast, innovate and manage the situation all around the world will get ahead. Initially, we were thinking of life after COVID but after the health experts found it in their mind, COVID is here to stay whether one year, 18 months o two years before there is a cure o vaccine. I’m still praying that there will be a miracle cure or vaccine,” he said.
There are now over 3.4 million cases of the deadly illness worldwide some four months after it first emerged in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China.
Cayetano said many people who are sick from diseases other than COVID-19 are shying away from hospitals for fear of getting infected by the new coronavirus. In some instances, hospitals cannot treat them because they are are already full of COVID-19 patients.
The Speaker noted that the ramped-up construction of new hospitals and health centers in provinces is
in line with seeming shift in government policies following the Balik Probinsya Program proposed by Senator Bong Go.
Cayetano said the presence of health facilities, job opportunities, and other infrastructure in the regions–including a reliable Internet and mobile communications network–would encourage people to go back to the provinces, decongesting urban areas in the process.
This would go well with social distancing and other preventive measures that Filipinos would still have to undertake after the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) are lifted.
Cayetano urged people to prepare for and accept the changes and challenges the new normal would bring about.
“We cannot go back to the old normal. For instance, in public schools, if there were 50 students, that number would be reduced to 30 or 25 under the new normal,” he said.
He said students might even be required to wear face mask. In factories, workers might have to distance themselves by at least one meter apart or put on personal protective equipment, the Speaker said.
As for the President Duterte-endorsed Balik Probinsya Program, Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte called it “a catalyst for quick economic recovery, especially in the countryside, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is contained.”
In line with this, the Deputy Speaker has offered a 300-hectare industrial estate within Camarines Sur’s Provincial Capitol complex as a possible relocation site for companies from Metro Manila. The site is near the airport.
“Providing incentives to businesses to set up shop outside Metro Manila [goes] with both the commitment of President Duterte to equitable growth and regional development and the spirit of the proposed CITIRA (Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act), which offers a menu of tax incentives to corporations that will set up shop and create jobs outside the metropolis,” Villafuerte said.