PH ranks lowest in gov’t Covid-19 response among Asean countries
MANILA, Philippines — Among those in Southeast Asian nations, Filipinos are the most disapproving of their government’s Covid-19 pandemic response, a recent survey has revealed.
In a survey report titled “The State of Southeast Asia: 2021” released by the Asean Studies Centre of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore on Wednesday, the majority or 53.7 percent of respondents from the Philippines expressed their disapproval of the current administration’s pandemic response.
Of the sum, the survey found that 17.9% of Filipinos said they “strongly disapproved” of the government’s measures against Covid-19 — the highest strong disapproval rating out of the 10 ASEAN countries.
In addition, 35.8% said they “disapprove,” 20.9% were neutral, 19.4% approved, and only 6% answered that they “strongly approve.”
As of Thursday, the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country reached 543,282 with 11,469 deaths.
Meanwhile, Indonesia followed the Philippines with a 50.4% disapproval rate, 24.1% approval rate, and 25.6% neutral response. Based on recent data by the Johns Hopkins University and Medicine, Indonesia has a total of 1.18 million Covid-19 cases and over 32,000 deaths.
However, compared to the Philippines, Indonesia has already administered 1,248,797 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from China’s Sinovac. A total of 279,251 people have received jabs of the vaccine or 0.10% of the country’s population according to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine’s vaccine tracker.
On the other end of the spectrum is Vietnam, which topped the list after having a 96.6% approval rating. Next is Brunei at 93.9% and Singapore at 92.4%. The three countries likewise received the lowest disapproval rates at 3%, 1.9%, and 1.1%, respectively.
The total Covid-19 infections in Vietnam, Brunei, and Singapore amounted to 2,091, 182, and 59,747. Meanwhile, there are 35, 3, and 29 deaths in each country.
Singapore, which is the first country in Asia to receive doses of Covid-19 vaccines from US-based pharmaceutical company PfizerBioNTech, has already vaccinated 6,000 people with 256,000 doses administered.
What should be improved?
Other than getting the approval and disapproval rating from the respondents, the survey likewise asked what the government must do to improve their pandemic response.
A huge portion of the Filipinos who participated in the survey, or 72.2%, said the Duterte administration must “encourage more scientists and medical doctors to contribute to public policy discussions and heed their advice.”
As a recap, the Malacañang in October last year ditched the OCTA Research Group’s findings and warnings regarding the country’s pandemic situation.
The Palace also urged experts from the research group to stop publicizing suggestions on the pandemic response and just “privately” communicate it to the government.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also revealed last December that President Rodrigo Duterte is not fond of the criticisms and commentaries of Dr. Anthony Leachon, who is a former adviser of the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF).
Leachon is known to be very active in expressing his opinion on the government’s Covid-19 response and vaccine program in his social media accounts.
Meanwhile, some 53.8% said that the government must “invest in early warning systems for pandemic outbreak and R&D for virus testing and vaccine development.”
Around 33.3% said there is a need for the government to offer better financial relief and subsidies to citizens impacted economically by the pandemic, while 30.6% believe that politicians and public servants should “observe public health measures, instead of flouting them.”
Then National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Major Gen. Debold Sinas made headlines in May last year after photos of his birthday gathering showed a number of police officers defying health protocols amid the pandemic.
However, despite violating the health protocols, Sinas was not sacked from his position. Instead, he was appointed by Duterte as the new chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
At least 5.6% answered that the government should improve the implementation of public health measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
Leadership and challenges
Majority or 32.7% of the Southeast Asian respondents selected Singapore as the country with the best leadership when it comes to Covid-19 pandemic response. It is followed by Vietnam with 31.1%.
Only 0.5% of the respondents favored the Philippines under the same category.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has left no one untouched, be it in the experience of the loss of loved ones, job retrenchment, travel restrictions or trade and education disruptions. That sense of uncertainty remains palpable as there are still no signs of abatement of the pandemic with new virus mutations across the world,” the survey read.
“It is no surprise that the “threat to health from the COVID-19 pandemic” tops the list of challenges facing the region (76.0%),” it followed.
About 80.6% of respondents from the Philippines said the Covid-19 pandemic is the region’s top challenge. Unemployment and recession came second with 65.7% votes, followed by more intense and frequent weather events at 59.7 percent.
Increased military tensions arising from potential flashpoints like in the South China Sea also seemed to be a challenge for at least 37.3% of respondents. Meanwhile, 28.4% are worried about the widening socio-economic gaps and rising income disparity.
The deterioration of human rights condition is a concern for 13.4%, 11.9% chose domestic political instability (including ethnic and religious tensions), and 3% cited terrorism as a challenge.
The report collated responses of 1,032 respondents from 10 ASEAN countries through an online survey conducted from November 18, 2020 to January 10, 2021.
The respondents were from the academe, think-tanks, or research institutions; business or finance; civil society, non-government organizations, or media; government; and regional or international organizations.
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