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COMMENTARY: Finding happy balance between health and economy

mindaviews commentary

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 11 Sept) —  I concede that delving into this twin topic “health and economy” is like trekking across an unfamiliar territory, with all its rugged, at times, hostile contours. The reason for it is this. I am neither an economist nor a health expert.

But, with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, all of us, to include the uninitiated like me, are being called upon to contribute our share in the continuing discourse aimed at finding a formula on how we can be free from the prevailing menace, while, at the same time, bracing the economy from falling into the gutter.

As it is, finding a happy balance between health and economy is like giving an answer to the proverbial “chicken and egg” question: which comes first,  the chicken or the egg?

As I am neither an economist nor a health expert, please allow me to enjoy the luxury of bringing to fore some figments of my quarantined mind, for whatever it is worth.

I confess that I am never scared of death than now. The first time I was terribly scared of death was when I submitted myself under the knife in 2017 due to prostate cancer. I was so scared not because I was afraid to die, but because it is the hope of every activist to die in the line of fire in the pursuit of his/her struggle. Dying from any ailments scares an activist.

As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is having an alarming spike in General Santos City, registering as of September 9, a total of 132 cases, 76 of these active, according to the regional Department of Health. The number of deaths has risen to seven, and many more are still gasping for dear life in COVID-19 designated quarters in various hospitals within the city.

In the middle of March 2020, General Santos City had only one COVID-19 case, and this involved an affluent city resident who attended the six-cock derby in Matina, Davao City, on March 6 to 10.

The health situation in General Santos city was in a very stable state, not until the locally stranded individuals (LSIs) in Manila were brought into the city, without prior determination as to their state of health, and not until the security in the city’s borders was loosened up due to strong pressures by the business sector.

As the COVID-19 pandemic pounds the city, the debate between and among experts continues to rage on as to which should be given primordial concern: health or economy.

Unfortunately, however, the debate fails to dig deeper into and focus on some few abstractions that serve as common grounds between health and economy – altruism, self-sacrifice, and the virtues of giving and sharing.

Viral in the social media are videos of barefoot Mangyans who refused to receive some food packs for the reason that those food packs were not products of the sweat of their brows; a B’laan who, when given a pair of bolos, gave the other bolo to his companion who does not have one for the reason that what he needs is only one bolo; and a “taong grasa” who gives his only piece of bread to a passerby so he may nurse his hunger.

These are but few examples of inherent Filipino values which are missing in the prevailing debate as to what we should give primordial attention: health or economy. Actually, we need not make a choice. We only need to find the common grounds, and these common grounds are found in us.

Thus –

Political parties and politicians, both the incumbent and those who are still vying for public office, should start their electoral campaign this early by distributing monies and foodstuff to all the people inhabiting every nook and cranny of our country.

After all, in past electoral exercises, they have proven to all and sundry that they are capable of feeding almost all the people within the whole duration of a 90-day grueling electoral campaign. By letting go of their respective monies now, they are, actually, celebrating their true Filipino values.

Government officials must declare a “ceasefire” on graft and corruption to ensure that every penny in government coffers is actually used for public welfare. All resources of government should be used solely for food, health protection and services and for other basic human needs, and not for anything else like making the beach white, as if black is not beautiful.

Moreover, government officials should avoid acts and repudiate policies that divide and polarize the people so that the whole nation may be able to focus all its efforts to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business enterprises should continue with their respective business operations not anymore for the purpose of earning profits but for the purpose of keeping their workers in their respective jobs, and for ensuring people’s access to foods and other basic commodities.

Towards this end, businesses must invest their resources on all necessary means and measures to protect the health and well-being of their workers, inside and outside of their work premises.


Moreover, business entities, big or small, that contribute millions of pesos, even billions of pesos, to the electoral campaign kitties of politicians every electoral campaign period should, instead, donate all these monies to our frontliners and to basic sectors and communities, most vulnerable to COVID-19 pandemic. They should do this now, and not wait for the forthcoming electoral campaign period.

Social movements and religious and civil society organizations should regear their programs, projects and activities predominantly for charity and relief works, while maintaining their respective advocacies for the protection of civil and political rights of individuals.

We, as individuals, should exert serious personal efforts to protect ourselves and our homes from COVD-19 by following given health protocols. We should learn to live with the stringent requirements of the prevailing new normal, as our own way of protecting ourselves, our homes and our communities, while we struggle to eke out for a living, day-by-day.

Finally, all of us, as individual persons, must nurture within us the culture of giving by sharing what we have and what we do not need to men and women next door.

Let us remember these: barefoot Mangyans refuse the foodstuff for their idealism; a B’laan shares a bolo with someone who doesn’t have one; and a “taong grasa” shares his only piece of bread to a stranger.

If the most downtrodden amongst us can exemplify by their deeds the eternal virtues of a true Filipino, we, too, can.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ben Sumog-oy is the action officer of IDEFEND-Gensan, Volunteer Head of the Para-legal Unit of Sentro-Socsksargen and Head of the Local Mass Struggle Unit of Akbayan-GenSan.)

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