COVID-19 pandemic overwhelms PRC Chair and Philippine Senator Gordon
MANILA – Senator Richard Gordon, who has been with the Philippine Red Cross for decades and has gone through natural catastrophes and man-made disasters, the wrath of COVID-19 appears too heavy to bear that he shed tears during a virtual forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) over the weekend.
He has seen the damage brought by the Luzon earthquake in 1990, the departure of American troops from Subic in Zambales and Clark in Pampanga prior to the record-breaking Mt. Pinatubo eruption, other devastating typhoons across the archipelago, the armed conflict in Zamboanga Peninsula as well as super-typhoon Haiyan which left thousands of casualties.
However, the threats brought about by COVID-19 seems overwhelming as the national government races against time to deliver the promised benefits for the minimum-wage earners, the informal workers along with thousands of people residing in squalor conditions in the peripheries of the country’s growth centers.
To date, the government has listed 3,246 COVID-19 positive cases, 152 deaths and 64 recoveries. Among the dead were medical front liners including prominent medical practitioners.
I asked him about his views on the pandemic’s impact on the economic order, the supply chain as well as the ill-effects on micro, small and medium enterprises which employ some 98% of the country’s labor force.
“I think we can recover as we did from the Great Depression. The world recovered from the crash on 1989. The problem is it would take a little time and there will be casualties, those who will die and those who will go hungry. (However,) we have the great repository of Bayanihan here in this country, we can do it,” Gordon said after describing himself as the “perennial optimist.”
He added the government should consider lifting the lockdown and get hold of people afflicted with the virus but “slowly open what needs to be opened like infrastructure where people can immediately find work.”
For the 74-year old lawyer turned lawmaker, Senator Gordon said he feels for the ordinary sidewalk vendors, the public utility vehicle drivers who cannot earn their keep due to the lockdown.
“You don’t work, you don’t eat,” he said saying the government should give the ordinary and informal workers the chance to ear and get them out of poverty and harm’s way.
While the government has seen to it food is available from supermarkets to the villages’ talipapa, Senator Gordon said the problem is people may not have the money to buy what they need.
He acknowledged the government’s efforts to address the severely affected sectors’ needs, whether in cash or food through the Social Amelioration packages and that the Philippine Red Cross already purchased the necessary equipment to augment the government’s COVID-19’s testing capability through their parallel efforts.
During his closing remarks, he asked for understanding from media practitioners for turning emotional as he groped for words to describe his projections. “Pray if you must,” he said as he emphasized the need to apply solutions and fix existing problems and stop finger-pointing.
“Fix our problem, stop placing the blame… This is the time that we don’t burn; this is the time to shine. Criticize if we must, but make sure we get the solutions as well,” Gordon concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)
Philippine Red Cross Chair and Senator Richard Gordon breaks down as he's overwhelmed by the impact of COVID-19 on the Filipino nation. (Screen grab from FOCAP Facebook Page)