We need unity to win the war against COVID-19; Juan Gatbonton, a great journalist

Published March 14, 2021, 12:50 AM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

Less than two weeks into our government’s nationwide inoculation against COVID-19, we are once again experiencing an alarming spike in new coronavirus cases in our country.

More than 4,500 daily infections have been recorded on March 12, bringing the total number of cases in the Philippines to more than 600,000, of which more than 50,000 are active cases. The OCTA Research group warned that our country may have a surge of 6,500 cases per day by end of March. We are afraid that we may beat the projection just in the next few days.

The health department attributed the upsurge in cases to the presence of the so-called United Kingdom and South African variants of coronavirus as well as non-compliance to the minimum health standards being imposed by the government.

The COVID-19 immunization program began last March 1, following the arrival in the country of the 600,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government. We later received 525,600 doses of Britain’s AstraZeneca vaccines through the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX facility.

As of March 12, the country has inoculated some 115,000 Filipinos –  primarily doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers – throughout the country. The health department said that about 3.4 million vaccines are needed to vaccinate all the healthcare workers in the country. So far, we only have a total of 1,125,600 Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines.

According to Bloomberg data dated March 12: “In the Philippines, the latest vaccination rate is 5,479 doses per day, on average. At this rate, it will take more than 10 years to cover 75 percent of the population with a two-dose vaccine.”

Bloomberg noted that “more than 334 million doses have been administered across 121 countries. The latest rate was roughly 8.41 million doses a day.” It added, however, that “at the current pace of 8.41 million a day, it would take years to achieve a significant level of global immunity.”

It seems that the world, especially the Philippines, is still a long way back to normal, based on the Bloomberg study.

We mentioned in our earlier column that our government has been on a tight rope, striking a balance between the economy, on one side, and the people’s health and well-being, on the other side.

Prolonging the lockdown, however, will be more devastating on our country and people as it will eventually lead to further economic downturn and losses in livelihood. Our people badly need jobs and income.

It is sad that after one year under COVID-19 and its debilitating impact on lives, livelihood, and the economy, it looks like our country is still confronting the same issues and challenges we faced at the beginning of the pandemic.

As we repeatedly pointed out, we need solidarity and cooperation if we are to win the battle against this invisible and virulent enemy. If we forge unity rather than discord and foster goodwill instead of vitriol, we will be able to harness the collective effort needed to beat the coronavirus plague.


On behalf of our wife Gina and son, Pangasinan Congressman Toff de Venecia, we convey our deepest sympathies and prayers to the family of our old friend, the late Juan “Johnny” T. Gatbonton, who passed away last March 11 at the age of 93.

Johnny Gatbonton was a voracious reader, prolific speechwriter, multi-awarded novelist, and a distinguished editor and columnist. He had a profound grasp of national issues and world affairs. He also served as our adviser when we were Speaker of the House of Representatives and in our modest forays in political party and parliamentary diplomacy in Asia and the international community.

Farewell and thank you, dear friend Johnny. You will always be remembered as a brilliant, incomparable journalist and a great Filipino.