The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the Philippines continue to rise, the World Health Organization describing “large scale community transmission” in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon regions and “localized community transmission” at the national level. The number of cases in the country continues to be the biggest in Southeast Asia and one of the biggest in the world.
As of this writing, the WHO reported a total of 1,124,724 COVID-19 cases and 18,821 deaths in the Philippines. COVID-19 variants first detected in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India have now been detected in the country, while a new ‘variant of interest’ dubbed B.126.96.36.199 alias P.3, was first detected in the Philippines in January 2021.
The Duterte government is widely accused of bungling the fight against the pandemic. It has enforced a long and strict lockdown, largely employing military and police forces, instead of health experts to contain the spread the disease. And critics accuse the regime of corruption and incompetence in the acquisition and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
For its 2021 budget, the regime allocated Php221 billion for health services, a little more than the Php207 billion allocated for the military. It allocated Php1.1 trillion for its ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure program. Its COVID-19 fiscal response vis-à-vis GDP is among the smallest in Southeast Asia.
The regime continues to miss its targets for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. While it announced a target of 30 contacts traced per case, it could only report 6 contacts traced per case as of April 2021.
Critics point out that the Duterte government’s biggest blunder is its mass vaccination campaign. It declared in early 2021 a target of 70 million Filipinos to be vaccinated by the end of the year. As of 14 May however, only two million doses have been administered since vaccination began in March. At this rate, it will take more than a decade to achieve its target.
According to think tank IBON Foundation, “the regime’s neoliberal approach to vaccination and its reliance on the global market, debt and foreign capital, characterize its incompetent and bungled attempts to arrest the spread of the disease.”