Malilong: We banned them; now, they’re not coming

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

WE HAVE reopened our shores to tourism but with Covid-19 still rampant particularly in Metro Manila how many foreign visitors do you think would be daring enough to come here?

Count the Americans out. The other day, the US Department of State cautioned its citizens against traveling to the Philippines due to Covid-19 and to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping in the case of the Sulu Archipelago, Marawi and other parts of Mindanao.

The travel advisory is not the first that the US and other western countries have issued against but this one stings because it comes at a time when we really need money from tourists to shore up our dwindling financial resources. You can’t fault the US, though. They’re acting in their own best interests. Remember that we also barred (and still do?) arrivals from the US who are not Filipino citizens.

There’s a bit of the pot-calling-the-kettle-black thing here, too. For at the time that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had declared that there is a “very high level of Covid-19” in the Philippines, their own country was averaging 60,000 new infections and 800 deaths from the disease every day.

Note, however, that 26 percent of adult Americans have been fully vaccinated and 40 percent have been given at least one dose. In the Philippines? I do not think vaccine recipients accounted for one percent of the population even if you include the non-health workers, non-seniors and their drivers and housemaids who managed to smuggle themselves into vaccination rooms, using their connections.

So let’s grin and bear it. We do not have the vaccines. The Americans, on the other hand, are sitting on a surplus of many million doses which they are unwilling to share with us. Not now anyway. And it’s not just their government. A recent survey said majority of the US population do not want to ship out any of their excess vaccines until every American is inoculated. And you cannot blame them.

But they’re losing out to the Chinese in terms of Covid-19 diplomacy ... and commerce. Although it is not necessarily the vaccine of choice among Filipinos, Sinovac is the one that is widely used for the simple reason that it is the only one available.

Our colonial mentality makes us choose everything American over other foreign-made (read: Chinese) brands and nowhere is that bias stronger than in the choice of the Covid-19 vaccines. We prefer Moderna, Pfizer and even Johnson & Johnson, but they’re not shipping them to us even if we pay for them. The Chinese, on the other hand, are only too willing to deliver Sinovac to us, initially as a donation and later, and typical of them, by sale.

The reality in international relations is that we can only rely on ourselves. We cannot trust our so-called friends to run to our rescue unless running will serve their own national interests. That is the long and short of it.