The Philippines may be thousands of kilometers away from Africa but such distance does not make it any safer from the threat of Ebola. As President Aquino puts it, Ebola is a ‘paramount concern’ due to OFWs. Even the United States failed to prevent the disease from stepping on American soil. It is a grave global problem this country has to seriously prepare for. However, the recent declarations of the government on the Ebola threat and on other matters of national interest are as dangerous as Ebola—critically dangerous and in dire need of a cure.
The Outbreak So Far
2014’s Ebola outbreak is considered as the worst since it was discovered in 1976. As of October 14, it has already claimed 4,555 lives out of the nearly 10,000 reported cases of infection. Liberia has the most number of recorded deaths from the disease at 2,484 followed by Guinea at 862, Sierra Leone at 1,200, and Nigeria with 8. The World Health Organization admits that the reported numbers could be lower than the actual number of cases. There could be more than 20,000 cases of infection, most of which are still unreported or undetected.
The United Nations has already declared an international public health emergency in view of the progressing threat of the deadly communicable disease. What makes the situation even worse is the lack of health care facilities in many of the countries where the infection has already spread. Add to that the inherent inefficiencies and incompetence of many governments in Africa. While the rest of the world are preparing for the possible spread of the disease overseas, some African authorities appear to be merely depending on international aid.
Possible to Control But Still Incurable
Fortunately, two countries have proven that it is possible to control the current spread of Ebola. Senegal and Nigeria have recently been declared free of the virus after no additional cases of infection were reported past the 42-day virus incubation period. Senegal only had one Ebola case so it was rather easy dealing with it. Nigeria, on the other hand, had 20 cases but everything seems to be under control now.
The key to being able to control the outbreak is prompt response. Both Senegal and Nigeria managed to prevent the spread with an immediate declaration of national emergency and the quick mobilization of government resources. In the case of Nigeria, the government worked hard to track more than 17,000 people who have had direct or indirect contact with the first Ebola victim in the country.
Officially, the Ebola virus disease (EBV) is still incurable. There have been fake cures offered online and marijuana is being floated as a possible cure, but there is still no official cure for EBV. The situation is not that hopeless, though. An antibody serum developed using the blood of EBV survivors is set to be used in Liberia within weeks. So far, tests in using this serum have been promising. Spanish nurse Teresa Romero, the first person to contract EBV outside of Africa, fully recovered after receiving treatment with the serum.
There was a news item on one leading (Aquino-leaning) broadsheet’s site about President Aquino’s brag on the country’s Ebola preparedness but it has since been pulled out. A link nor a cache could no longer be located. That article was actually the inspiration for this post about Ebola and pambobola. We simply couldn’t ignore the President’s bola about the country’s preparedness when even one of his Department of Health officials, in a DZMM interview, cautioned the public that there can be no adequate preparation so everybody should be vigilant to promptly detect and control cases of infections.
The deeply ingrained disease of politicians’ tendency to commit pambobola to exude confidence or a sense of being in control is appalling. While it’s not good to stir panic, it’s always important to be realistic. We cannot afford another Yolanda fiasco due to underestimation considering how Ebola could be worse than a supertyphoon.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona’s statement about seriously considering the idea of sending health workers to Africa to help address the outbreak is somewhat irresponsible and ridiculous. We understand the desire to project an image of being a responsible member of the international community but his statement sounded bola for the most part. After the controversial “Greatest Escape” of Filipino troops in Golan Heights, we’re not sure how the international community is perceiving Filipino “support” or “help” now. It’s better to be silent on matters involving the risk of sending of manpower to other countries considering our officials’ embarrassing emphatic declaration on prioritizing our peoples’ safety even if it means disregarding official orders. This is not to say that we want to avoid taking part in international responsibilities. We just don’t want to be perceived as bluffers or insincere talkers especially after Malacañang declared that there are no intentions of sending health workers to West Africa days after Secretary Ona’s statement.
Senate Hearing on Ebola Preparedness
This might sound very pessimistic but another senate hearing on the country’s Ebola preparation does not really sound reassuring. It sounds like another attempt of some senators to be in the news again. As reported, Senator Guingona, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, said that the goal of conducting the hearing is to gather everyone involved and to ensure that government agencies expected to be responsible in addressing the Ebola threat are synchronized in their efforts and are prepared in dealing with the disease.
Senator Guingona’s Ebola hearing at the Senate is an “oversight” type of hearing. It is supposedly intended to improve the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of government operations particularly in making sure that EBV does not spread in the country. We just don’t know how the results of his senate hearing would influence the planning and preparation efforts of the government, particularly the actions undertaken by the “hardheaded” President Aquino, the “awful manager” who rarely listens to people outside of his KKK circle.
Ebola virus disease may finally get a corresponding cure but the Filipino politicians’ tradition of pambobola seems unlikely to be cured. Just like how we can’t underestimate the threat of Ebola in West Africa, it’s worth pointing out how bolero politicians continue to afflict Philippine society. Proof? Just look at how Vice-President Binay’s ratings refuse to significantly fall despite all the scandals he is facing. Binay remains to be the most trusted high-ranking government official. He even shamelessly continues with his “I am an Aquino ally” cant to sweet-talk the remaining loyal Aquino allies and fans into lending him support after indirectly attacking the President. Similarly, President Aquino managed to bring his ratings back to the “Good” level by repeatedly highlighting his “Daang matuwid” bola and other variations of his empty talk.
We need to prepare for Ebola and we likewise have to address the pambobola disease affecting Philippine politics for so long. We know there’s a cure there somewhere and it could be something that can be discovered and developed in the human natural defense system itself. That cure is most likely something we can draw from our own selves.
As originally posted on Blog Watch, Philippine Online Chronicles.