Playing catch up in a “not-so-good situation”

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BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Alfredo Abelardo Benitez holds a degree in Mathematics.

From the College of William and Mary in the USA.

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Which could well explain his penchant for numbers, models and statistics.

Those things that usually strike fear in the hearts of men or make the meek catatonic.

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But to Benitez, one of only two billionaires last year among the more than 300 members in the Philippine Lower House, numbers can guide you.

Ask him a question and he would readily have statistics.

Like the 25 percent connectivity of Internet in the province, a result of a study, he says.

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Albee, as he is more known, was in the news lately (was he ever out?) for pivoting his attention to the COVID pandemic, becoming a de-facto health adviser to the provincial government even if his official item is a peso-a-month consultancy on economic affairs.

His seeming shift to what some think as a field unfamiliar to a businessman has led to raised eyebrows by some, mockery by others – reactions often said either in hushed tones or blurted out loud in coffeeshops for all who care to hear – but all always away from the presence of the former solon.

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“Just because he is rich,” some scoff while others would make a circle sign with their thumb and middle finger.

To Albee, however, it “doesn’t make sense” to ignore the pandemic, bury one’s head in the sand like an ostrich and wish it to go away.

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“It affects everything,” Albee says about the pandemic.

As economic adviser earning P12 a year, “I have to earn my salary,” he tells DNX Sit Down three days away from the scheduled four-day “timeout weekend” that starts on the 28th.

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Which means that even the economy, on which he is supposed to be advising Capitol, is also affected by the pandemic.

Retrenchments. Closures. Sluggish money circulation – all economic.

All affected by COVID.

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Makes sense for an economic adviser to grab the bull’s horns.

And that bull now battering the economy is COVID.

To Albee, amid speculations that all Capitol measures against COVID come from him, what he is suggesting are just his two cents worth.

Among these was his proposal to put up a biomolecular laboratory at the Capitol-managed Teresita Jalandoni Memorial Provincial Hospital in Silay City, one of the five confirmatory testing facility in thr province.

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“If we do not see the enemy, we have to do something to see it,” Albee says and cites the report that the province has the highest transmission rate in Western Visayas.

Which made the lab “very crucial,” since testing is the first of the Three Ts (not the Tulfos) – testing, tracing and treatment – the three-pronged assault plan against the pesky bugs.

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Without testing, there can be no tracing and, well… you get it now.

Albee is pushing for more transparency as the pandemic continues to rage.

“People must be told the situation for what is,” he says.

“If it’s bad, it’s bad; if it’s good, it’s good,” Albee adds.

NOT SO GOOD

Asked about what he thinks of the current situation, Albee says “it is not so good” though he hastens to add that it is not accurate to draw a comparison between the 1980s sugar crisis to the slump the country is experiencing now.

Tomorrow: agriculture, resilence and how COVID reshaped the world

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