Hope amidst the pandemic

Last May 9, we successfully held the virtual MOA signing for the first batch of RT-PCR machines to be donated to six government hospitals given by our private sector donors. We were joined by deputy chief implementer of (the coronavirus disease 2019 or) COVID-2019 Response Vince Dizon, private sector chief implementer for the ARK-PCR Initiative Rep. Janette Garin, and Project ARK leader Josephine Romero, among others.

The initiative is part of Project ARK’s mission to support government hospitals in their fight to save more lives from the coronavirus. With the donated RT-PCR machines, government hospitals will be able to ramp up mass testing to 7,000 in their respective communities. The initiative is being led by former Sec. Garin, who is representing the private sector.

I believe the more RT-PCR testing we do, the better these (along with rapid antibody testing) will help create greater visibility of the coronavirus. This, I believe, is key to winning the war.

Our Test, Test, Test campaign, supported by a modified lockdown approach, will also greatly help in zoning in on the most vulnerable communities, helping redirect precious resources and services to those who need it most. With proper testing and the immediate containment of the virus at the barangay level, key industries can safely bring back their workforce and resume operations. This, in effect, will revive the economy.

This visibility is needed to guide our response plans and strategies, but these can only be effective if they are supported by accurate data and information. An informed plan makes for better strategy. And in order for us to successfully quell this pandemic through a concerted attack, information must be freely shared with all – from LGUs to agencies, to NGOs and others.

Data is needed to direct action – not just the actions of the government, but also the private sector. MSMEs need to know how to move forward in their own businesses after the quarantine. Media networks, in this regard, help by sharing and spreading the information in an efficient manner.

This is why the ABS-CBN lockdown is so unfortunate. Not only is it a source of employment for thousands of Filipinos, ABS-CBN, as one of the biggest networks in the country, is an important partner to have in times of crisis.

Information is what everybody is hungry for right now, and ABS-CBN can help disseminate this quickly and effectively. In addition to being a channel for news updates, the network helps nurture a healthier, more dynamic economy by providing a platform for companies to advertise their products and services. Having a network such as ABS-CBN also provides greater transparency and protects democracy.

I think Congress will do the right thing, and we will see ABS-CBN on-air soon, continuing its almost 70 years of service.  ABS-CBN and the other networks do so much in uplifting our people, bringing not only entertainment, but hope. People are losing their jobs, their businesses, their life savings, and most heartbreakingly their family members, so it must at least deliver hope.

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Yesterday, we launched our first Facebook live webinar, titled, “We GO as One for Tourism,” which tackled how the tourism sector aims to bounce back from the serious challenges posed by COVID-19. We were joined by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat as well as other industry leaders.

This session is the first among the We GO as One Series, an online thematic learning session that discusses the different challenges encountered by the different sectors like tourism and agriculture, among others, and what can be done to address the challenges. The We GO as One Series also aims to direct ideas on how different industries can prepare for the “new normal” post-quarantine.

All businesses, whether micro, small or medium enterprises, have been greatly impacted by this pandemic. But, I do believe that this will pass. For now, we must strengthen our defenses and be more strategic, helping build a safe and secure environment that will allow the economy to restart.

Hopefully, sooner than later, our tourism sector will be able to bounce back and move forward. I believe the Philippines has a lot of potential in tourism, and this is because of the great work Sec. Puyat has done. After this pandemic, our tourism sector will rise and continue to be one of the most vibrant sectors in the country.