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Denying Duque

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A WEAK healthcare system? Not, the Philippines. No way!

So averred Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday in the wake of the first novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease or 2019-nCoV ARD fatality in the country.

Duque was referencing the declaration of the World Health Organization of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus as a global health emergency, expressing fears of its impact in countries with weak health care systems, where it could potentially infect millions of people and kill thousands.

“We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it spread in a country with a weaker health system,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus himself said.

A definitive “No” was Duque’s response when asked if he thought WHO’s fears could even remotely apply to the Philippines: “Hindi. Palagay ko ang binabanggit nila diyan tingin ko Africa, mga mahihirap na mga bansa. (No. I think they are referring to Africa, countries that are poor.)”

Further qualifying: “‘Yung sinasabi nila, ‘yung weak health system ‘yung mga talagang mahihirap na bansa. ‘Yun ang mga tinutukoy nila na weak health system na mahirap, mga developing third world countries, eh tayo middleincome country na tayo. Hindi tayo kasama diyan. (The countries that have weak healthcare systems are those that are really poor. They are referring to third world countries. We are in a middle-income country. We are not included there.)”

We can excuse Duque for his being apparently warped in the semantics of the 1970s – “developing third world countries.”

But we cannot acquiesce the least to his denial of the state of the country’s healthcare system. Even as we understand where he is coming from – being the health secretary.

The fact is: Only last October, in the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum, the Philippines slipped eight notches down – placing 64th out of 141 countries rated.

Of the 12 areas measured – institutions, infra, health, labor market, information communications technology adoption, macroeconomic stability, skills, product market, financial system, market size, business dynamism, — the Philippines’ lowest ranking was in health, at 102nd overall.

That’s nowhere near the health status of any middle-income country, Doc.

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