By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
As the country approaches its Independence week, business leaders are urging government to declare the month of June as “Frontliners Month.”
“What better way to honor our frontliners – the medical teams, the military and police personnel, the national and local government staff especially the Inter-agency Task Force on emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), private business enterprises and ordinary citizens – who risked their lives to protect our citizenry from the ravages of an invisible enemy, the COVID-19, than to recognize them during our celebration of the 122 years of our National Independence on June 12,” Amb. Benedicto Yujuico, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said.
“The whole country is moved by the courage, sacrifice and resilience of these modern-day heroes, and I am confident there is broad-based support for this simple yet symbolic honoring of the frontliners,” Yujuico added.
“Declaring June as Fronliners Month is also timely as the country completes three months of declaring key areas of the country under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the country’s version of an area lockdown. I think it is safe to declare that the ECQ – and the subsequent declarations like GCQ – has been successful in preventing a massive chaos if COVID-19 cases and deaths escalated to levels that would have inundated the country’s health system,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis, who is president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport) and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP).
As of June 7, the Philippines has 21,895 COVID-19 cases which resulted to 1,003 deaths. As of May 28, the country ranked 43rd among 215 countries, according to World-o-Meter in terms of COVID-19 infections. Compared for instance to the United States which already has over 100,000 deaths, the Philippines, which has a population that is one-third of the US, the country could have suffered around 30,000 deaths by now had the government, the private sector, and all our frontliners failed in their task to protect the Filipino.
“The overall efforts have not been perfect but there is every reason to celebrate and honor our heroes,” Yujuico said.
The country has strengthened its targeted testing capacity. From a single national reference laboratory – the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) in March, the country now has 43 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories. The new cases have reduced as a percentage of total testing. In March and April, positive cases reached 13% of total testings. In May, with the increase in testings, positive cases dropped to 8%.
“Philippine businesses are still down and trying to survive. But we would like to honor now our frontliners, at same time telling the rest of countrymen to remain vigilant in our collective fight to defeat COVID-19. Our fervent message is still for all to do the right things – keep physical distancing, wash your hands, stay home even if with the slightest of symptoms, avoid crowds and support our frontliners,” Ortiz-Luis added.