opinion

Vaccine inequity undermining global economic recovery

July 23, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine inequity will have a lasting and profound impact on socio-economic recovery in low- and lower-middle income countries without urgent action to boost supply and assure equitable access for every country, including through dose sharing, according to new data released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Oxford.      An acceleration in scaling up manufacturing and sharing enough vaccine doses with low-income countries could have added $38 billion to their GDP forecast for 2021 if they had similar vaccination rates as high income countries. At a time when richer countries have paid trillions in stimulus to prop up flagging economies, now is the moment to ensure vaccine doses are shared quickly, all barriers to increasing vaccine manufacturing are removed and financing support is secured so vaccines are distributed equitably and a truly global economic recovery can take place.      A high price per COVID-19 vaccine dose relative to other vaccines and delivery costs – including for the health workforce surge – could put a huge strain on fragile health systems and undermine routine immunization and essential health services and could cause alarming spikes in measles, pneumonia and diarrhea. There is also a clear risk in terms of foregone opportunities for the expansion of other immunization services, for example the safe and effective rollout of HPV vaccines. Lower income countries need timely access to sustainably priced vaccines and timely financial support.      These insights comes from the Global Dashboard for COVID-19 Vaccine Equity, a joint initiative from UNDP, WHO and the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, which combines the latest information on COVID-19 vaccination with the most recent socio-economic data to illustrate why accelerating vaccine equity is not only critical to saving lives but also to driving a faster and fairer recovery from the pandemic with benefits for all.      In some low- and middle-income countries, less than 1 per cent of the population is vaccinated – this is contributing to a two-track recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s time for swift, collective action – this new COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Dashboard will provide Governments, policymakers and international organizations with unique insights to accelerate the global delivery of vaccines and mitigate the devastating socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.”      According to the new Dashboard, which builds on data from multiple entities including the IMF, World Bank, UNICEF and Gavi, and analysis on per capita GDP growth rates from the World Economic Outlook, richer countries are projected to vaccinate quicker and recover economically quicker from COVID-19, while poorer countries haven’t even been able to vaccinate their health workers and most at-risk population and may not achieve pre-COVID-19 levels of growth until 2024.       Meanwhile, Delta and other variants are driving some countries to reinstate strict public health social measures. This is further worsening the social, economic and health impact, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized people. Vaccine inequity threatens all countries and risks reversing hard won progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.      Vaccine inequity is the world’s biggest obstacle to ending this pandemic and recovering from COVID-19. Economically, epidemiologically and morally, it is in all countries' best interest to use the latest available data to make lifesaving vaccines available to all.”      Designed to empower policy makers and development partners to take urgent action to reduce vaccine inequity, the Global Dashboard breaks down the impact of accessibility against a target for countries to vaccinate their at-risk populations first to reduce mortality and protect the health system and then move on to vaccinating larger shares of the population to reduce disease burden and re-open socio-economic activity.      The Dashboard is facilitated by the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All (SDG3 GAP), which aims to improve collaboration across the multilateral system to support an equitable and resilient recovery from the pandemic and drive progress towards the health-related SDGs.      Closing the vaccine gap is required to put this pandemic behind us. The dashboard can help scale up and accelerate global delivery of vaccines by providing accurate, up-to-date information on not just how many vaccines have been given, but also the policies and mechanisms through which we get them into arms.

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Bangkok lockdown measures started

July 14, 2021

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration ( CCSA )  announced  new Covid-19 lockdown measures for Bangkok and surrounding provinces, as well as 4 southern provinces, and now people and businesses are scrambling to prepare before provisions go into effect since last night until Monday.      Airlines have quickly implemented emergency measures for domestic travellers to handle the wave of cancellations and rescheduling due to Bangkok and other provinces locking down and AirAsia quickly walked back an immediate suspension of flights and agreed to delay for 2 days to avoid stranded so many travellers. Koh Phangan, preparing for its reopening as part of the Samui Plus programme, has tightened up entry procedures for travellers from dark red zones like Bangkok, now requiring a 5,000 baht RT-PCR test instead of the cheaper rapid tests.      But in an effort to avoid widespread national outbreaks that followed the last Bangkok semi-lockdown measures as residents fled to their hometowns to avoid strong restrictions in the capital city, officials are urging people to refrain from any unnecessary travelling. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration  ( CCSA ) announced restrictions of travel between provinces to try to stop people from moving around and spreading infections.      In the new disease control measures for the 4 southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla, and Yala as well as Bangkok and the 5 surrounding provinces of Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, and Samut Sakhon, a curfew announced at first at 10 pm was quickly revised to 9 pm to 4 am nightly. Public transportation will stop at 9 pm and resume at 3 am and night markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, general stores, supermarkets, and vaccination centres must close at 8 pm.      Shopping malls are  closed except for the shop types listed above that can open instead until 8 pm. Restaurants can continue takeaway, also until 8 pm, but dine-in services are forbidden. Beauty salons, massage parlours, spas and similar are considered too high risk and must completely close, as bar and entertainment venues have for several months.      Public parks avoided closure this time, something that had frustrated many residents during previous Bangkok lockdowns measures, as many felt exercise and fresh air in open outdoor parks posed a very low risk of Covid-19.      Aside from religious events, traditional activities and official business meetings, all gatherings of 5 or more people have been banned. People are reminded that wearing masks in public and social distancing at work and home and in public is still required at all times.      Checkpoints and patrol units are in Bangkok enforcing laws and curfew measures from 6 pm onward starting today, citing anyone out between 9 pm and 3 am unless they are medical or utility workers travelling to work, or someone needing medical treatment en route to a hospital. Anyone in violation could be charged under the Communicable Disease Act and the Emergency Decree, where the harshest punishments include up to 40,000 baht in fines and 2 years in prison.

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Emigration of workers and employees

July 14, 2021

When the pandemic began, I was already a retiree following German law. But I still enjoyed teaching German language. I really loved communicating with my students "face-to-face". At the moment,  I only do have the chance to teach online. All of my work and communication with the outside world now takes place in my home office. Actually, I am still lucky. Why?      Well, throughout the pandemic, essential workers and employees – often in lower paid positions – have borne the brunt of employers’ decisions. Many were working longer hours on smaller staffs, in positions that required interaction with the public with little to no safety measures put in place by the company and, at least in the US, no guarantee of paid sick leave. It quickly burnt workers out.      Many people are leaving their jobs – or thinking about it – in droves. A Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 global workers showed that 41% of workers were considering quitting or changing professions this year, and a study from HR software company Personio of workers in the UK and Ireland showed 38% of those surveyed planned to quit in the next six months to a year. In the US alone, April saw more than four million people quit their jobs, according to a summary from the Department of Labor – the biggest spike on record.      There are a number of reasons people are seeking a change, in what some have dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’. For some, the pandemic precipitated a shift in priorities, encouraging them to pursue a ‘dream job’, or transition to being a stay-at-home parent. But for many, many others, the decision to leave came as a result of the way their employer treated them during the pandemic.      As I learned from the recent Stanford Study, workers who, pre-pandemic, may already be teetering on the edge of quitting companies with existing poor company culture saw themselves pushed to a breaking point. That’s because, as evidenced by this Stanford Study, many of these companies with bad environments doubled-down on decisions that didn’t support workers, such as layoffs (while, conversely, companies that had good culture tended to treat employees well). This drove out already disgruntled workers who survived the layoffs, but could plainly see they were working in unsupportive environments.      And although workers have always cared about the environments in which they work, the pandemic added an entirely new dimension: an increased willingness to act, says Alison Omens, chief strategy officer of JUST Capital, the research firm that collected much of the data for the study.      "The early days of the pandemic reminded us that people are not machines",  says Alison Omens. In the wake of the pandemic, “the intensity has increased in terms of that expectation; people are expecting more from companies. The early days of the pandemic reminded us that people are not machines”, says Omens. “If you’re worried about your kids, about your health, financial insecurity and covering your bills, and all the things that come with being human, you’re less likely to be productive. And we were all worried about those things.”      Yes, it's indeed an across-the-board exodus. The mass departure is happening at all levels of work, and is especially evident in service and retail jobs. “Many of the stories have tended to focus on white collar jobs, but the biggest trends are really around traditionally low-wage roles and essential workers,” says Omens. “That’s a really interesting element of this.”      Could this Great Resignation bring about meaningful, long-term change to workplace culture and the way companies invest in their employees? Omens believes the answer is yes. The change was happening before the pandemic, she says, with a “real increase in what people are looking for in terms of their expectations of CEOs and companies”. +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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A climate disaster despite a landmark historic treaty

June 28, 2021

While the rainy season officially started here in the Philippines, we are still sweating in summer temperatures. And not only us. In my home country Germany and neighboring European countries, the temperatures climbed up to 38 degrees. And as if it wasn't enough, California  hit over 50 degrees Celsius yesterday.That has an impact again on the whole world.      The Antarctic is nearing a climate disaster despite a landmark historic treaty. Burning fossil fuels threatens one of the last areas on earth left unspoiled by extractive human industries. Author Ajit Niranjan captionedit  it in one of his latest write ups: "The remote continent of Antarctica is melting!"      Yes, when the Antarctic Treaty came into effect 60 years ago, its signatories had little idea how successful it would be. World leaders agreed to leave an uninhabited continent twice the size of Australia free from war, weapons and nuclear waste. They declared that the southern polar region, which is 98% ice and does not have an indigenous population, should belong to no country and instead be devoted to collaborative science. In the following decades, extra rules to stop companies mining minerals and drilling for oil turned Antarctica into the biggest nature reserve in the world.      About 90% of the world's surface freshwater is locked up in the Antarctic Ice Sheet and, as the planet heats up, glaciers whose collapse would deluge coastal cities from New York to Jakarta are melting and growing less stable.      World leaders have pledged to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius this century, but their current policies will heat the world by almost 3 C, according to Germany-based research group Climate Action Tracker. A study published in the journal Nature in May found that a global temperature rise of 3 C would lead to an "abrupt jump" in the pace of Antarctic ice loss that would, in turn, trigger "rapid and unstoppable" sea-level rise.      Alessandro Antonello, a historian at Flinders University in Australia who has written a book about environmental politics in Antarctica, said "the central environmental challenge to Antarctica today is undoubtedly climate change." Yet, of the 54 parties to the treaty that protects it, the 29 with voting rights include the world's biggest historical polluters, such as the US and Germany, as well as fast-growing emitters like China, India and Brazil.      "There is definitely a level of hypocrisy," Antonello added. And yes, he is so very, very right, my dear readers.      For scientists, cooperation meant refueling planes at bases of other countries — essential in such a hostile landscape — and sharing findings. Teams of scientists in the Antarctic have collected climate data stretching back hundreds of thousands of years and in 1985 they discovered a dangerous hole in the ozone layer above it.      Earth's polar regions are warming faster than the rest of the planet. But unlike the North Pole, which has become the focus of geopolitical tensions as melting ice reveals rich resources, the South Pole has few known minerals or fuels to exploit other than some reserves of coal and oil. That has helped shield it from the attention of extractive industries.      Still, the Antarctic is big and similar enough to nearby geological areas to likely be home to more resources. Together with the region's inhospitable landscape — with thick ice and harsh weather making any commercial extraction costly — the Treaty's 1991 ban on mining and drilling has kept Antarctica free from anything other than scientific exploration. The ban is indefinite and may first be reviewed in 2048.      "Climate breakdown is drastically changing the scenery in the Antarctic, '' said Laura Meller, an ecologist and polar expert with Greenpeace Nordic, which successfully campaigned to protect the region from mining and drilling. "For life in the water surrounding the continent, that is a drastic transformation." Species such as the Patagonian Toothfish are still being hunted unsustainably in the Southern Ocean surrounding the Antarctic. Seabirds like albatrosses and petrels get caught up in huge nets as bycatch gets thrown away.      The legal uncertainty also applies to tourism. Antarctica receives about 70,000 tourists each year, mostly in the summer. While this is low relative to the size of the continent, they mostly go to the same several dozen locations, which concentrates their impact. Antarctica has no police force and — without a sovereign government — it is still unclear who would pay for the damage done by foreign visitors in the event of large-scale disasters like an oil spill from a grounded ship.      Still, as an example of global cooperation, the Antarctic Treaty has not been matched — though some experts are skeptical that it could be replicated in today's political climate of rising populism.       Another climate change global problem without solution? +++      Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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Farewell, PNoy

June 28, 2021

PNoy passed away last Thursday  at the age of 61. Like any man and like any President, he had his share of flaws. But I wish  to remember him for his better qualities. He was humble, dignified, straightforward in manner and speech, and most important for me as a Filipino, he defended our patrimony.      I first met him when he was still a presidential son. Not yet thirty at that time, (he still had thick hair), PNoy  became  an instant crush of high school students in Muntinlupa where he attended the finals of the Ninoy Aquino oratorical contest. Since assuming office in 1986 as Muntinlupa mayor up to the time I left in 1998, I tried to institutionalize an annual oratorical contest (around August 21) to honor his late father.       Later, hearing about PNoy’s fancy for guns, I invited him to try our newly opened gun range at the Alabang stock farm. He did not disappoint  as he consistently drilled holes at the center of  paper targets and dropped metal plates from varying distances and shooting positions.       I really get irritated whenever a convoy of a dignitary, with sirens blazing, jumps the line especially during heavy traffic. If they do not want to be late for their appointments, why don't they just leave home early, like the rest of us, to avoid the traffic. Perhaps fully aware of the sensitivities of the ordinary motorists, PNoy shunned the use of “wang wang”. I was driving at normal speed  towards Silang, Cavite  one weekend when I noticed flashing lights at my rear view mirror. I slowed down a bit to allow the convoy to  overtake me but it did not.  When I turned left to  a side road, the convoy followed.  As soon as I parked my car,  I noticed PNoy alight from his presidential vehicle. On the invitation of then BSP Governor Amando Tetangco, Jr., PNoy had come to try out the newly constructed BSP gun range where,  a la  American sniper Chris Kyle, he easily downed round metal targets at 200 meters with his scope-mounted rifle.       Good voyage to the home of our Heavenly Father, PNoy. Please say “hi” to your Mom and Dad for us.  Do not ever let your guard down      I received sad news from a family friend that his brother-in-law recently died of Covid. The deceased and his bereaved wife had been very careful and had stayed home since the quarantine started in March 2020. It is surmised that his brother-in-law was infected through food deliveries.       Meanwhile, an office mate reported one family who tested positive even after receiving their first dose of Aztra Zeneca. Fortunately, their symptoms were very mild.      There has been quite a confusion arising from conflicting statements  on the use of face shields. So, just play it  safe. Always have your face shields ready.       Tez Navarro, Muntinlupa City’s PIO, gave this update on the vaccination in Muntinlupa City to date:  Total vaccinated: 147,989.  Vaccinated with First Dose: 119,560.   Vaccinated with Second Dose: 28,429.  224,574 have signed up for Muntinlupa’s vaccination program, representing 58 percent of the target population.   Good news at the energy front      Just when we start hearing about an  impending power shortage in Luzon, this  news coming from AC Energy is indeed welcome.      AC Energy’s 120-megawatt Gigasol Alaminos in Laguna, one of the country’s largest solar farms, is now operational and has started exporting renewable energy to the grid. Earlier in April, the company operationalized its 63 MW GigaSol Palauig in Zambales.       More good news. According to AC President and CEO Eric Francia, the company is expected to start the operations of the 150 MW Ingrid Power quick response thermal plant in Pililla, Rizal in the next few weeks.  Francia added that  the company has  another 276 MW of renewables capacity under construction in the Philippines, with plans to double the capacity before the end of the year.      A 120-megawatt facility like Gigasol Alaminos can power approximately 80,000 homes while avoiding more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases. Gigasol Alaminos is notable for its pioneering Sustainability Hub. 32,000 kilograms of plastic waste were recycled into eco-bricks which were used in building the plant’s facilities. The site also features a tree nursery. It is surrounded by Ayala Land’s Carbon Forest, a woodland reserve that acts as a carbon trap and fosters biodiversity.      In various stages of completion are the following renewable energy projects of AC Energy:       1) 4 megawatt Bataaan RE Tech Hub 2) 40 MW Alaminos Battery Storage in Laguna 3) the 72 megawatt Arayat-Mexico solar plant in Pampanga and 4) the 160 megawatt GigaWind in Ilocos Norte.      Located in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, the 160 MW GigaWind Pagudpud wind farm is set to be the biggest wind farm in the Philippines to date. The ₱11.4 billion facility will be  the third wind development of AC Energy in Ilocos Norte. The project’s target completion is slated for Q4 2022, in time for full year operations in 2023, when supply in the Luzon energy market is expected to be tight.      Note: You may wish to share the foregoing via Facebook, Twitter or Linked-in.

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The Climate Smart Livelihood Advocacy Cooperative: Transformative for People, Planet, Prosperity & Peace

June 21, 2021

In a world that is giving so much veneration to the profit-motive that has already captured the mindset of all governments, all institutions, all universities and even of religious groups against the backdrop of so much denigration of spirituality, buried in so much materialism and consumerism that has sacrificed mother earth to the altar of greed and profit, how do we now awaken humanity from deep slumber?  The mainstream media is controlled by those who are in control and continue disseminating gospel of advertisements to perpetuate unconsciousness to hide the truth.  This is especially true in the discounting of the climate crisis in pursuit of short-term profit by the 19 Fossil Companies that will not allow the discontinuance of their massive raking of some16 trillion dollars annually or 10 million dollars every minute.  The truth about climate change that is putting civilization in the state of planetary emergency is being hidden. Such is a crime against humanity. In this process of subversion, there are three kinds of actors: those who tell the lies, those who repeat the lies and those who allow themselves to be seduced by the lies.        We should not allow these lies to continue. While we are now in the state of planetary emergency as climate change indicators have escalated so quickly that an emergency response is imperative if civilization is to avoid breakdown and eventual collapse, it is already too late to organize a robust movement.  What we can do is to create awareness among the 12 million cooperative members nation-wide and the 1 billion members worldwide to awaken and transform the cooperative movement to be true to its DNA of being value-based and philosophy driven and above all, of being sustainable. This is the mission and raizon d’ etre of organizing the Climate Smart Livelihood Advocacy Cooperative.       The Philippines is the 4th in the world worst hit by climate change according to the UN’s Risk Disaster Index. The most affected are the rural ecological people aggravated by the on-going protracted war.  This is the conclusion of the Study by the World Bank as reported by the Food and Agricultural Organization.  This is the reason why 4 of 5 farmers especially the young ones are now leaving farming and going to the urban centers to work as janitors, waiters or drivers that are now highly congesting the cities.  This is also the reasons why the rural people are going abroad as 6,000 Filipinos were leaving daily during the pre-covid time, leaving their families behind to work in other countries.      Not only shall we address climate change; let us also bring peace especially in the resource-rich Mindanao where the second longest war in the world – the Mindanao War – must now be stopped.  But how?  By uprooting the root causes of war – poverty, gross inequity and social injustice. No less than Pope Francis said when he visited Malacañang a decade or so ago that  “it bids us all to break the bonds of social injustice and oppression that give rise to glaring and scandalous inequities.” Yes, in a highly skewed societal order where only 50 oligarchs control the economy, let us now advance cooperativism as the great equalizer.       CSL Advocacy Cooperative’s mission is to become a countervailing force against climate change and violent extremism. This has become so inspiring, manifesting a peaceful approach to end protracted war.  The urgent call now is to organize the 15 million Indigenous Peoples in their 1,200 Ancestral Domains.  Why the imperative need?  Know that the poorest of the poor now are the Indigenous Peoples whose land and water rights are being violated.  In Mindanao alone, some 63 IP leaders have been killed in the last 5 years? For what? For resisting massive land grabbing by Trans-National Corporations in cohort with powers-that-be. Look at the very resource rich Mindanao. Who controls? Who profits? Who benefits?  Some two hundred thousand hectares – the choicest of land – which were before owned by the Indigenous Peoples have been transformed into massive plantations to satisfy the consumerist lifestyle of the people in advanced countries while the Filipinos cannot even produce enough staples for its hungry and malnourished people like rice and milk.  Isn’t paradoxical that our country is the biggest importer of rice? Don’t you know that 99% of the milk that we consume is imported? Indeed, the culprit is what you call corporate globalization!      Presently the CSL Cooperative is in the frontline on documenting the issues confronting the IPs to resolve the issues not through armed struggle but through cooperativism. The CSL approach to help the IPs include massive planting of giant bamboo in hundreds of thousands of hectares that have been denuded through massive logging and mining in the last 7 decades. The CSL Cooperative will also capacitate the Ips to transform their Ancestral Domain into massive abaca, coffee and cacao plantations and in raising livestock especially cattle for dairy projects. EMPOWER THE IPS THROUGH CSL to counter poverty and to end the second longest war in the world. And most importantly, counter climate change as bamboo is a good carbon sink, water holder and most importantly, an alternative to fossil fuel.

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