Nalzaro: Gwen’s ‘maverick’ approach against Covid-19

Bobby Nalzaro
·3 min read

“DO NOT be afraid to make decisions. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.” — Carly Fiorina (former CEO, Hewlett-Packard).

Having a female leader is one signal that people of diverse backgrounds—and thus, hopefully, diverse perspectives on how to combat crisis—are able to win. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia has been adopting a “maverick” (an unorthodox or independent-minded) approach against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). Independent-minded individuals are those inclined to decide for themselves what to believe and do rather than simply accept things because others say they should.

“I read figures and make my decisions from facts and figures, not figments of imagination, because that is what anyone in my position should do, including those that are in sciences and in discipline such as the medical profession,” the lady governor was quoted as saying in reaction to a report by a research group that the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases in the province is a “cause of concern.”

Not because she is just less anxious or less strict in imposing restrictions to avoid the spread of the virus in the province, but her approach was quite different from that of the other local chief executives.

This, despite two of her younger brothers, Nelson and Marlon, getting inflicted with the disease and dying one after the other due to complications.

I remember her telling my radio audience during an interview several months ago that she did not want to be “held hostage” by the pandemic. She wants to revive and propel the province’s economy, especially the tourism industry. She wants to move on.

Gwen was the first to relax the travel restrictions in the province by lifting police quarantine checkpoints and got away with the tedious travel requirements like 14-day quarantine upon arrival and swab test results for travellers and returning overseas Filipino workers. Prior to the discovery of the United Kingdom (UK) variant, she was supposed to give the go signal for the resumption of international flights at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and hold face-to-face classes in Covid-19-free areas. She opened the borders of the province to all travellers and transients and visited tourist destinations to promote tourism.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human lives and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food system and security and livelihood, Gwen wants to rebuild the province’s economy. She focuses on the livelihood of her constituents so they may survive as she said many people have died because of hunger and poverty. She wants the people to overcome and fight poverty amid this health crisis.

While other local government units (LGUs) are scrambling to buy vaccines for their respective constituents, Gwen is just adopting a wait and see attitude saying, “This is not a race.” She relied everything to the national government for vaccine procurement.

Did you notice that the province did not even hire contract tracers and introduce massive rapid and swab testing, unlike other LGUs? While waiting for the vaccine, Gwen will concentrate, in the meantime, on boosting the immune system of her constituents by providing them with vitamins and urging them to observe the minimum health protocols. Well, we cannot question her move and approach against this pandemic because she knows well the situation of her turf. She will be judged by history.

The situation in the province is quite different from the urban areas. Rural areas can face different health challenges depending on where they are located. Each rural community should assess its unique susceptibility and social vulnerability to Covid-19. Many rural communities are considered highly vulnerable. The Social Vulnerability Index includes factors such as housing, transportation and socioeconomic status. But in fairness, the various LGUs under the province are adopting their own measures to prevent the spread of the virus in their respective localities.

Isip inahan sa lalawigan, si Gov. Gwen maoy nasayod kon unsa ang angayan niyang himoon alang sa iyang mga “anak.” Ang buhat maoy pasultihon ug dili ang sulti maoy pabuhaton. Sige, padayon lang jud, Gob.