Tell it to SunStar: Safety versus...

TOWARD the end of January this year, Filipinos who are both here and abroad have been notably in outrage. At the height of the moment when the dreaded 2019 novel coronavirus has engulfed the entire Chinese provinces and penetrated countries from across the globe, the majority of the Filipinos have expressed their concern for their own and their family’s safety, especially over the government’s decision not to ban travels going to and coming from mainland China where Hubei province, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, is located.

Philippine media reported that majority of the Filipinos expressed their disappointment and frustration on government when they learned that there was yet no plan to ban tourists from China. This is following the statement released by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III when he appeared during the House of Representatives on Jan. 29. Duque III was quoted as saying that “confirmed cases are not limited to China. And that by doing so (ban), may prompt China to question our decision considering other countries apart from the latter have also been infected already; thus, the same need to ban.”

But Filipinos found this incompetent and even stupid as a reason. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have been jammed with posts that slammed the decision of the government and even dragged the name of President Rodrigo Duterte himself for the lack of any sound and firm decision to benefit the constituents.

Duterte was earlier criticized after he said that it is not easy to ban any form of travel to and from China as the latter has not suspended its own. On this note, the question of whether Duterte was afraid to damage the bilateral relationship that the Philippines and China enjoyed for years was raised by the disheartened many. Quite a number of Filipinos agreed, expressing dismay on Duterte.

In his utter non-compliant decision not to ban Chinese nationals hailing from mainland China, Duterte stressed that such a drastic action would just implicate the idea of xenophobia and might insinuate that the Philippines, as a country, disrespects human beings, in this case, the Chinese.

In the observance of many that the President’s decision was more on the side of preserving the bilateral relations rather than respecting human beings, isn’t it fair to emphasize that the majority of the Filipinos were only after protecting themselves?

Our bilateral relationship comes as less than vital and can later be re-negotiated after this pandemic dilemma ends. More than urging the public to remain calm and alert while maintaining proper hygiene and avoiding crowded places, the President himself should have assured his constituents, the majority of which shoved him to power, that he is doing what is needed to guarantee every deserving Filipino, in or out of the country, that they are protected and safe.

Do we really want to compromise our very own safety just to preserve relationships with China? (By Daphney Louise Villaflor and Britney Stace Lumactod, BA International Studies, USJ-R)