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Googly eyes

One nice thing about the unofficial campaign season is the country’s ambitious local officials seemed to have suddenly found their balls/brains after years of being totally and silently subservient to the whims and caprices of the almighty boomer command known as the national government.

One of the all-powerful government agencies some of the recently-revived public officials are starting to push back against is the IATF, the inter-agency task force that has been singlehandedly responsible for this country’s epic failure of a COVID response. Unfortunately for the Philippines, what should’ve been a personal opinion of mine has been confirmed by international organizations like Bloomberg and Nikkei that have consistently ranked the country at the bottom of the barrel in terms of COVID response and recovery.

If you ask me, the ultimate symbol of this country’s pandemic response would be the face shield. Its widespread mandatory use in public spaces of the Philippines has neither scientific nor medical basis but Filipinos have been forced to don this nuisance layer for almost two years already. We are the only country on the planet that resorted to mandatory face shield use almost everywhere, at one point even in homes. And yet we are also among the countries worst hit by the coronavirus. It doesn’t take a genius to come to the conclusion that we have been forced to implement useless solution.

On top of the unnecessary cost and inconvenience that is mostly ineffective against COVID transmission as evidenced by our dire statistics and embarrassing international rankings, the millions of plastic or acrylic face shields that we have disposed of through the months of mandatory use are an environmental disaster.

In the past few weeks a couple of mayors and their city councils have started defying the IATF and made face shield use voluntary in their cities. Iloilo, one of the few cities in the country run by an independent-minded chief executive, was among the first to do so. On the other side of the spectrum of independence from national government control was Davao, where its well-connected   mayor can pretty much do anything without getting into trouble with her pops’ merry men. Now, capital City Manila, whose current mayor has moist eyes on the presidency, has also joined the face shield fray and from the looks of it, other cities are poised to follow suit and finally stand up for their constituents by making face shield use voluntary.

The IATF, whose focus it seems, has been on containing Filipinos rather than the coronavirus, has not been happy with this sudden rise of free-thinking among chief executives who have been following orders like cattle ever since the pandemic broke out. They probably did not account for the fact that politicians become a different sort of vote-courting animal when the election season begins. The crooked logic that came with mandatory face shield use was an easy target for politicos.

Now that the furor against face shields have risen from the people who should’ve opposed it from the start if they were really concerned about their constituents rather than votes, the IATF is naturally pushing back. At first they threatened mayors who were pushing for voluntary face shield use, reminding them of the powers they supposedly hold.

However, what came next was classic IATF, boomer command style. They said it would be ok not to use face shields but we’d have to use googles. Instead of making the situation better, the IATF always seems to find ways to make it worse because googles are definitely at least five steps in the wrong direction.

Compared to face shields, googles are more uncomfortable, more inconvenient, more costly, and just as unnecessary. People who use glasses will not be able to use them, fogging and blurry vision will be a constant problem, and low quality googles will cut into skin. It will be more expensive and generate even more plastic waste. The worst part is this recommendation is neither science nor evidence based. This is a solution that can be thought up only by an organization terribly disconnected from the problems of the people they are ironically trying to save/help.

More than a year ago, the rest of the world already knew that mask-wearing would be enough to fend off COVID transmission. A little after that, after it was established by scientists that aerosol transmission of COVID is possible, ventilation became the focus but in the Philippines, we stuck to our guns and kept our face shields on. Now that the necessity and effectiveness of the face shield is finally being assailed, our government is turning to googles! With minds like that responsible for our pandemic response, it is no wonder that the Philippines remains stuck at the bottom of the barrel.

If you come to think of it, we will be needing those googles if we intend to stay at the murky bottom of that barrel indefinitely.*

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