COVID19 does not discriminate. The strongest of leaders, business icons, entertainment idols, sports heroes and important personalities have contracted  the disease, some even succumbed to it. But thousands more, unknown, nameless and helpless people all over the world died of the virus because of insufficient or total absence of healthcare facilities and systems,  the Philippines, included.

They say that the best and the worst of men surface or come out in times of crises. In my country, I have seen the best come out  from legions of men and women in their desire to help others especially the most vulnerable and marginalized in this COVID19 pandemic. Even before  the authorities could put in place their initiatives to service the needs of the poor, non-government organizations or NGO’s, unrestricted by bureaucratic protocols were quick to act.

Atty Lilia de Lima at AFES 2018

I wish to share  how a community responded fast to help the marginalized. The Outstanding Women In the Nation’s Service (TOWNS), a nationwide organization of women awarded for their outstanding work in  various fields and disciplines, has, among its members highly recognized doctors and medical practitioners.

These doctors partnered with the UPMedical Foundation  and would be in the forefront of providing free personal protective equipments or PPE’s to hospital personnel that collect samples from poor patients. These patients need financial assistance as well for their food and transportation  to avail of the tests in the Testing Centers. What started as a fund raiser to provide these much needed PPE’s snowballed into a full blown humanitarian project that covered much of the entire country. Donations in cash or in kind poured in to source PPEs: masks, gloves, face shields, goggles, caps, gowns, coveralls, shoe covers and  miscellaneous medical supplies  for the front liners. 

Another NGO, Rock Ed, joined-in to supply food to those who work 24 by 7 in the hospitals. Materials become increasingly scarce. In normal times, logistics would not be much of a problem. With the nationwide imposed lockdown, collecting, transporting and distributing these supplies to reach  hospitals in remote areas that service poor communities proved to be a major challenge.

Undaunted,  these women organized task forces on fund raising, purchasing  and deployment not just of medical equipment but also of relief goods and food supplies.Many  TOWNS members are experienced in calamity operations, are effective fund raisers and  the media among them, in mobilization. A member of TOWNS, an officer in  the Navy provided vital support In distribution. Even the Seniors, this writer included, who belong to the most vulnerable group also contribute with their prayers. This on-going  Campaign has reached  305 hospitals as of last count and distributed over 349,000 assorted PPEs with around 115,000  pending distribution  or in progress. Hundreds of medical personnel and thousands of poor patients have been serviced. Only God knows how many deaths have been prevented.

But TOWNS is not alone.  Many  other organizations  are out there helping  the most vulnerable. Big and small businesses are doing their share to help especially the marginalized among their people, their employees and workers. Foundations endeavor to support  as many among the poor population as possible. All of these efforts are in addition to the government’s rescue programs.

Moving Forward. 

There is a clear need to examine, review and  act on our National Health Care System. It is apparent that like all the other countries, we prepare for war against the seen enemy, thus the gargantuan budgets for the military. This COVID19 has proven to an extremely  devastating enemy  than any we have (not) seen and for sure this wont be the last. Our leaders need to redirect the nation’s resources and give top priority to the health of the people and be  prepared for the next pandemic.  

About Atty Lilia de Lima

Atty. Lilia de Lima is the retired Director General, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). In 1995, she was asked to serve as PEZA’s first Director-General charged with promoting and regulating foreign investments in the country’s economic zones. The number of PEZA ecozones increased by 2,000%, and close to 1.2 million direct jobs were created.

Atty Lilia was a Ramon Magasasay Foundation Awardee in 2017, recognized for “her unstinting, sustained leadership in building a credible and efficient PEZA, proving that the honest, competent and dedicated work of public servants can, indeed, redound to real economic benefits to millions of Filipinos.”

Watch her panel discussion on Re-Imagining the Future @ AFES 2018 here! 

Subscribe to our newsletter here!