WITHOUT sinking into cliché, the nation should seize this time of crisis and challenge by the pandemic as an opportunity to advance and implement some major initiatives and reforms.
It is indeed true to say that a crisis can be a powerful spur to action.
Writing in the Psychology Today journal, the psychotherapist Mel Schwartz said insightfully:
“Crises come into our lives, no matter how we may try to avoid them. They are troubling, unwanted experiences or events that take us way out of our comfort zone. Typically, crises result in some type of loss. The very nature of a crisis is antithetical to our core values of certainty and predictability as they vanish in an instant.
“We desperately try to restore order to our lives as chaos seems to prevail. Yet, if we learn to reframe how we see crisis, we might actually take advantage of it. There is the potential for alchemy as the crisis unfolds into a gain, provided we learn to stop resisting the unwanted change.”
He was targeting his advice at individuals; as with individuals, so with nations.
This present time of travail and pain, which has disrupted so much of our individual and collective life, can also be an opportunity or turning point for our Filipino nation.
It can be such if, nationally, we use it as a catalyst to achieve major changes and reforms in our country and in our national life.
Consider how different the national condition will be if instead of solely fixating on the terrible problems and choices that the coronavirus has brought to our country, we seize the moment to effect reforms in our government system and in our national life.
If this emergency has taught us anything at all, it is clearly the fact that our public health system in our vast archipelago remains inadequate, ill-equipped, and unmodern to meet the challenges that have been engendered by a national emergency as crippling as what we are facing now.
Think of what will happen if we shift our attention from the immediate crisis to the challenge of building a public health system that can effectively serve our 108 million people.
Consider what will happen if the money raised now for the pandemic were turned also toward building up our public health system.
Second, as has been suggested by one senator, we can seize the moment as an opportunity to implement the national ID system, which has been fully approved and funded, and yet still has not gotten off the ground.
According to Sen. Win Gatchalian, had our national ID system been in operation already, we could have launched a quicker health and calamity response to the pandemic because we could have traced quickly persons suspected of being infected with the coronavirus disease.
The ID law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in August 2018 in order to establish a single official identification card for all citizens that would interconnect all government-issued IDs. The government started pilot-testing the national ID system last year, which was set to run up to June this year before formally rolling out in July next year.
Amid the current emergency, Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd has disclosed that the DoH encountered difficulties in tracing people who came in contact with Covid-19 patients because some have incomplete or erroneous contact details listed with airline companies.
In contrast, Taiwan and Singapore were able to use their respective national database to trace their citizens’ travel history.
Third, our current experience in this emergency can be used as a launch point for an earnest disinfection and sanitation program to clean up our national capital and entire capital region in order that Manila can truly rise as a prosperous, modern and livable metropolis.
It is a sad commentary on Manila that, today, our restaurants cannot open their doors during dining hours without being invaded by flies and other pests.
Other Southeast Asian capitals, like Bangkok, have wonderfully conquered this horrible limitation through a continuous and effective disinfection and sanitation system. We have made a start at disinfection and sanitation during this crisis. Imagine how different our lives and our prospects will be if we continue this permanently and do it nationwide.