Do not despair; coronavirus vaccine is around the corner – Duterte

Published July 27, 2020, 10:14 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The country’s dream of prosperity has been “snuffed” by the coronavirus pandemic but the public should not despair due to the imminent discovery of a coronavirus vaccine, President Duterte said Monday.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

“But let us not despair. The vaccine is around the corner. Sooner and not later, the virus that gobbled up thousands of lives will itself be laid to rest,” he said.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President remained optimistic about the progress in vaccine development as he thanked the health workers, other fronliners, the government task force, and other sectors that contributed to efforts to fight the disease.

“We live in a troubled time. Our dream of prosperity for our country was suddenly snuffed by a pandemic virulent virus. No nation was spared. Neither rich nor poor were exempt from the onslaught of this deadly disease,” Duterte said in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

In his speech, the President paid tribute to the people battling the coronavirus on the front lines.  He said the nation is grateful “to those who courageously and willingly put their lives on the line to serve the people and country.”

“We share the grief of their families and no amount of tears can compensate for their great losses,” he added.

Duterte likewise thanked those who helped ensure the steady supply of food, water, and basic utilities of households and the provision of basic social services and financial assistance to the people.

“Our profound gratitude goes to everyone who helped keep our country’s food supply chain running, the valiant soldiers, policemen and security guards who kept peace and order in our communities; the dedicated personnel who kept our essential establishments operational. You showed us kindness and selflessness. You gave us strength. You risked your own lives to serve the greater good in keeping with the Filipino spirit of Bayanihan,” he said.

He likewise expressed gratitude to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the National Task Force against COVID-19 “for all the countless hours it spent to keep the pandemic in check and for all the efforts it made to ensure the safety of our people.”

Duterte also recognized the efforts of local government units (LGUs) to contain the effects of COVID-19 and its impact to their constituents.

“I know exactly the difficulties you are undergoing. I pray that the officials of each LGU in our country – from the barangay to the autonomous regions – would set aside partisan politics and selfish interests to do what is right and good for all,” he said.

‘Life over other considerations’

When the pandemic hit the country, Duterte explained that he prioritized life over other considerations. Citing estimates from experts, he said government interventions have prevented as many as 1.3 to 3.5 million infections in the country.

“To me, even if the numbers were much lower, it would still be and would have been worth the sacrifices we made. Buhay muna, bago ang lahat (Life before everything else),” he said.

Duterte admitted that the government encountered difficulties ramping up its testing capacity but has improved such efforts. “We now have 93 accredited testing laboratories nationwide and we are aiming to conduct 1.4 million tests by the end of July and ensure a quick turnaround time of 48 to 72 hours,” he said.

The government has also allocated billions to support low income families affected by the pandemic although he admitted that the implementation of the social amelioration program was “not perfect.” “And some opportunists turned crisis into opportunity. We will catch up with you sooner than you think,” Duterte said.

He said the government also provided financial aid to 650,000 affected individuals in the formal sector, 110,000 Filipino workers abroad, and almost 83,000 repatriated OFWs.

“We also provided temporary wage employment [opportunities] to displaced marginalized workers through the TUPAD Project. Our indigent senior citizens were also provided with a stipend for the [first] semester of the current year,” he said.

He said the Department of Trade and Industry, through the Small Business Corporation, set up the P1-billion COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES Program to provide zero-interest loans for micro, small and medium enterprises affected by the pandemic. 

As of July 10, 2020, over 2,600 loan applications worth P182.5 million have been approved. “We are optimistic that this initiative will help our MSMEs stabilize and recover from their losses,” he said.

He said more than 4.3 million poor families benefitted from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program while over 9.2 million beneficiaries received subsidies under the Unconditional Cash Transfer program. The government also made available free tertiary education and universal health care.

Duterte also said public utility drivers have been given assistance through the Pantawid Pasada Program.

On complaints that some drivers did not get aid at all, he directed the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to look into the matter.

In his speech, the President cited other accomplishments in the past year, including passage of laws on the postponement of barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to December 2020, Malasakit Centers Act, establishment of the National Academy of Sports, and Salary Standardization Law of 2019.

He expressed hope that the law raising the salary of government workers will inspire them “to perform better and encourage young, brilliant citizens to join public service.”

The country’s ease for doing business law has also been gaining momentum as the nation is closer to eliminating overregulation in government services, according to the President.

“Frontline processes, including consular services, processing of building and business permits, and services for overseas Filipinos and seafarers were streamlined. Passports and drivers’ license validity were lengthened to ease the burden of the public,” he said.

Duterte also highlighted the country’s strong fiscal position as well as stable credit ratings despite a sea of downgrades and negative outlook revisions worldwide.  He likewise took pride of the significant infrastructure projects completed under the Build, Build, Build Program.

A comprehensive written report on the administration’s accomplishments will be released to the public “to remind us that perseverance, patience, and determination will help us move forward even in the most difficult of times,” according to the President.