Fil-Ams’ plea to Biden: US vax for PH | Inquirer Opinion
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Fil-Ams’ plea to Biden: US vax for PH

Wonderfully subversive! Before I go to this column’s main subject matter, let me say that the community pantry begun last week on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City by Patricia Non was, if I may use the language of believers, a spark of the Holy Spirit. It has since gone viral in both mainstream and social media and has been replicated in real life in a number of places, among them, along Leon Guinto Street, in front of St. Scholastica’s College run by the Missionary Benedictine Sisters, and in places outside of Metro Manila.

A wonderfully subversive initiative, I must say, because it flew in the face of those in power. Call it an indictment of the present government’s ineptness in the face of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic or simply the Filipino bayanihan spirit rising in the worst of times. No amount of bashing and red-tagging from Duterte diehards can stop its trending. The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines has issued a statement defending community pantries and denouncing their detractors.

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It took a woman to kindle the fire. The heartwarming sign on the street pantry simply says: “Kumuha batay sa pangangailangan, magbigay batay sa kakayahan” (Give according to what you can afford, take according to your need). Women are instinctively attuned to the needs of those around them, and in the case of Non she listened to the urgings of her heart and mind. Soon people made a beeline to that first pantry to share or fill their needs, and it did not take long for communities to do likewise. The rest is one for the books.

The closest Filipino equivalent of the word pantry/cupboard is paminggalan. I, um, googled.

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Last week, I was at the online forum sponsored by Fil-Am groups and individuals in the US where they shared ideas on how to get US-made anti-COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines fast. The guest speaker was Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez. The gathering resulted in a letter sent to US President Joe Biden “Re: Immediate release of US Moderna vaccine for the Filipino People.” Here is the letter, short and crisp, dated April 14, 2021.

“Dear President Biden:

“The Philippines and the United States have been partners for more than a century. As we speak both nations have resumed military exercises in the West Philippine Sea.

“As a token of the continued partnership between our two countries, we ask your office to advocate for the immediate release of five (5) million Moderna vaccines by May and not to wait until July 2021.

“These COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna were purchased by the Philippine Government. The situation is dire and the Philippines need immediate help. As of today, the Philippines is experiencing a surge of cases of COVID-19. Close to 15,000 cases are being diagnosed every day, with a bigger proportion being underdiagnosed. Metro Manila’s hospital capacity is up to 86%, there are tents in the parking lots and patients are already being transferred to hospitals as far as 100 miles away. Only 0.05% of the adult population has been immunized, mostly with the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The Philippine Government has purchased 13 Million doses of Moderna vaccine and another seven (7) million have been purchased by a Philippine-based private foundation. The partial delivery of the purchased vaccines is scheduled for July 2021. This is four (4) months away and regrettably at the expense of more lives which can be prevented by an urgent mass immunization of the purchased vaccines.

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“Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to a favorable response to our request.”

The letter was signed by Eric Lachica, organizer, US Medicare in the Philippines; Nathalie Quion, MD, president of the Philippine Medical Association of Metro Washington DC; Victoria Navarro, RN, director, Philippine Humanitarian Coalition; and Loida Nicolas Lewis, president of US Filipinos for Good Governance, and with the support of almost 40 Fil-Am organizations.

The US’ Pfizer vaccines could have been here early on had someone not “dropped the ball,” causing those vaccines to end up in Singapore and China’s donated Sinovac getting the red carpet instead. Romualdez could only sigh: “It is water under the bridge.” So while countless Filipinos were getting Sinovac jabs and murmuring “No choice,” the “altruistic” donor that is China had a fleet of more than 200 boats out there in the West Philippine Sea trying to grab more Philippine territory.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines, Filipino Americans, Joe Biden, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo on US vaccines for PH
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