Press Release
February 10, 2020

Virus, Volcano, VFA: What's the cost of each?

We are grappling with the three Vs--virus, volcano and the VFA--and each will cost us money.

Hopefully, the virus will not spread, Taal will not erupt, and the VFA will not be scrapped for now.

Taal's behavior is up to the God above, or whatever geological factors there are below. But how hard the coronavirus will hit us would depend on the government's ability.

The saling-pusa of the three--the man-made VFA, if abrogated, will also have budgetary repercussions but in a scale smaller and more surmountable than what nature would inflict.

But I believe that we Filipinos will be able to handle what an angry volcano, an aggressive virus, or an aggrieved U.S. will throw at us.

This is not a time to be nationally depressed, but to be energized by a can-do spirit.

Government should now call for a general mobilization of all its resources in fighting the nCoV, acting as one, and speaking as one.

From a symphony of voices, it must put up front a face that reassures, from whom all information must come, so credible as to serve as a one-person vaccine against fake news.

This should be matched by actions on the ground, and on the frontline, to project the comforting message that the government is on top of the situation.

In crisis, actions speak louder than words. There is eloquence in deeds that no rhetoric can equal.

To support the frontliners, government should set a logistical pipeline, beginning with relaxing procurement methods in the stockpiling of essential supplies the first-responders would need.

As to Taal, which is still a simmering crisis, government should now focus on reconstruction. There are thousands of houses to be repaired, livelihood to be restored.

In competing for government attention and resources, one crisis should not displace another. A country which hosts an annual expo of disasters must have a government which can multi-task.

As smart actions are based on sound plans, government should now start computing the economic cost, under various scenarios, so it would know where to effectively and economically apply the remedial measures. Foresight is an essential part of being 'laging handa'.

For example, tourism is a P2.2 trillion peso annual industry which accounts for 10 percent of the GDP and employs nearly 6 million.

Top three sources of arrivals come from three Asian countries north of us: Korea, China, Japan, the so-called kimchi-dimsum-sushi travel markets.

Outnumbered only by the Koreans, Chinese visitors totalled 1,626,309 from January to November last year, and each one on the average spent $296 a day, per the Department of Tourism (DOT).

According to DOT data, they are more galante than the Japanese ($126 a day) and the Americans ($65 a day). They are, however, outspent by people from the land of K-drama ($341 a day).

The drop in arrivals will tow down our tourism receipts. What help can we extend to the workers in this sector?

We should also run the numbers on the fallout from a pullout from the VFA.

From 2016-2019, the peso amount for security cooperation programs obtained amounted to P28 billion. In the pipeline for the next two years is about P12 billion worth of assistance.

The Department of National Defense impact assessment should reveal whether these are essentials or hand-me-downs from some desert ukay-ukay depot. If there will be value replacement, what will be its budgetary impact?

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