From Jose C. Laurel V, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Japan.
I refer to the article “China falls from top spot in Nikkei COVID recovery ranking” published online on Oct. 6 and wish to provide further context on the infection management and vaccination situation in the Philippines. I hope that this would enable Nikkei Asia and its readers to have a more comprehensive picture of the Philippine government’s COVID-19 response, especially since many of the underlying metrics for the Philippines have already favorably shifted.
A delicate balancing act is always needed to ensure the protection of people’s health and the protection of their livelihood. Even as the Philippines acts to avoid long-term scarring of the economy, the primacy of public health considerations will balance our government’s decision-making.
First, caseloads in the Philippines have begun to decline, even as breakthrough infections continue to affect many countries. Based on the Philippine Department of Health (DOH)’s Report on PH Situationer on COVID-19 statistics, as of Oct. 14, the Philippines has lodged a total of 2,698,232 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, of which 95.36% have recovered. The national average daily attack rate per 100,000 is at 9.64 for the period of Oct. 1 though 14, down from 15.96 two weeks prior, representing a 40% reduction in cases over the two-week period. Increased testing in the Philippines is a factor that contributed to the rise in the number of reported infections, a fact acknowledged by the WHO Country Representative in the Philippines, Rabindra Abeyasinghe. We continue to aim for significant enhancements in detection by increasing and improving testing capacity in the months to come.
Moreover, it should be noted that the Philippines has one of the lowest proportions of fatalities in the region at 1.49% of total cases, again a fact acknowledged by the WHO country representative. This is a tribute to our expanded clinical capacity, which we have put in place since the start of the pandemic.
Second, DOH reported that the Philippines had administered a total of 52,303,905 vaccine doses as of Oct. 17. A quarter, or 25.4%, of the Philippine population of 110 million has received at least one dose, while 22.1% have been fully vaccinated. These numbers show that the Philippines’ vaccination figures already surpass the coverage of high-income countries and ASEAN member states with a population below 30 million people (population data from the World Bank and U.N.) Data from Bloomberg’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker show that the Philippines has consistently ranked in the upper tier in terms of doses administered — 23rd globally out of 205 countries, 13th in Asia out of 47 countries, and fourth in ASEAN after Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In this connection, the Philippines is deeply grateful, especially to the COVAX facility, to which it is also a contributor, which enables us to bolster vaccination capacity in the country. Bilateral donors like Japan, the U.S., and China have also provided much-needed assistance in this effort. Government procurement of vaccines allows us to further expand these efforts, sustain the momentum in our vaccination drive, and even accelerate it in the coming weeks.
Third, the Philippines continues to strengthen its efforts to achieve economic recovery. The Philippine economy is gradually recovering with GDP posting a growth rate of 11.8% in the second quarter of 2021, as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority and the National Economic Development Authority. This growth will be supported by increasing the country’s health capacity, expanding social and economic activities, sustained growth in public infrastructure, improved consumer confidence, and accelerated COVID-19 vaccination program.
While it is true that the Philippines has imposed very stringent measures to control people’s movements over the past year, which is one of the main parameters of the Nikkei ranking, our government’s position is very clear on this: there are other ways to live with COVID besides lockdowns. We are now pilot-testing measures like localized restrictions and fine-tuned alert levels to avoid having to take measures that will prevent our return to normalcy.
We hope that Nikkei Asia will work with the Philippine government to present an accurate and comprehensive picture to the reading public.