Independence in a pandemic
It’s challenging to celebrate anything in the continuing killer pandemic. Today the nation marks its 123rd Independence Day with Filipinos completely dependent on the international community for the vaccines that can deliver the country from the hell created by COVID-19.
Along the country’s western seaboard, meanwhile, Filipinos have been driven away from traditional fishing grounds as China uses militias to enforce its bizarre claim over nearly every inch of maritime area it can lay its hands on, with complete disregard for international rules to which it is a signatory.
The much-touted “independent” foreign policy of the Duterte administration has ironically drawn flak for subservience to a foreign power. The kowtowing has yielded little positive results, whether in terms of the touted massive Chinese investments or a stop to encroachments in the West Philippine Sea, where swarms of Chinese ships have become permanent fixtures. Filipino fishermen have lost at least 70 percent of their income as a result.
Last year, concern over offending the sensibilities of Beijing prevented the Philippines from closing its borders early and consequently allowed the entry of the country’s first COVID cases and fatality, straight from the source of the virus, the Chinese city of Wuhan. A preference of the Duterte administration for China-made vaccines is also seen to have led to the dropping of the ball on a deal forged as early as July for the delivery of 10 million Pfizer-BioNTech jabs last January, facilitated by the US State Department with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
For the masses, the COVID-19 pestilence has worsened the need for deliverance from hunger, poverty and joblessness. Independence Day in the pandemic should strengthen the resolve to become more self-reliant in addressing the country’s needs, from food to health care and defense of national sovereignty.