Should we thank China for face mask donation when Filipinos donated first?

February 6, 2020 - 7:07 PM
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Novel coronavirus in the Philippines
A boy wears a protective face mask with a character design inside a jeepney, following two confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, February 4, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)
This is a tale of two face masks donations.

The Chinese government donated thousands of medical masks to the Philippines amid a shortage of supply in the country, a week after a Philippines-based group sent millions of masks to them.

The demand for surgical face masks increased since the Department of Health confirmed the first case of the novel coronavirus in the country last week.

As of publication, the Philippines has three confirmed cases of the new virus—the couple who arrived from Wuhan two weeks ago and the third one returned to China this week.

Last Sunday, Malacañang informed reporters that the Chinese government donated a total of 200,000 surgical masks amid the reported temporary shortage of supply in medical stores.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo thanked China for the much-needed donation.

“We wish to acknowledge with great appreciation the donation of the Chinese government of 200,000 surgical masks and its offer of sharing medical information and findings on the novel coronavirus,” Panelo said.

“Such sharing will go a long way in better understanding and containing the spread of nCoV,” he added.

This development happened after Sen. Richard Gordon last January 26 shipped millions of masks to Wuhan, China, a populous city that became the ground zero of the deadly strain of coronavirus.

Gordon, who is concurrently chief executive of Red Cross Philippines, last week shared that a certain officer from the Bureau of Customs made the “humanitarian” request.

Face masks worth $1.4 million were shipped just within six hours.

“I got the humanitarian request as [Philippine Red Cross] CEO at 12 midnight called Mimel Talusan and BOC staff to help ship the humanitarian cargo within six hours this AM,” Gordon tweeted on the same day.

An article of Global Times, an English language version of China’s People Daily, also confirmed that 3.16 million masks arrived in Wuhan at 1:54 p.m. of January 26.

“The masks were purchased by Hubei government through import companies to combat the novel coronavirus,” an excerpt of the article read.

These turn of events raised some eyebrows. One Twitter user expressed outrage over the decision to donate millions of respiratory equipment when recent incidents—the Taal eruption ashfall and the nCoV scare—required many Filipinos to avail of the masks.

Another user, meanwhile, quipped that the masks China donated were a portion of the masks Gordon previously gave away.

“What’s there to thank? Some of those surgical masks were probably the ones Gordon sent to China. They just returned it,” the user said.

Parody page Malacañang Events and Catering Services also posted juxtaposed screenshots of Global Times’ tweet on the arrival of masks from the Philippines to that of a local report showing “out of stock” signs of face masks in medical supply stores.

Posted by Malacañang Events and Catering Services on Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Need for masks for health workers

The DOH previously asked the public to stop hoarding face masks and leave some for health workers handling suspected and confirmed patients.

“The N95 mask, we want to reserve this for the health workers who are actually handling cases either PUIs [persons under investigation] or confirmed positive cases. We ask everybody huwag nang makiagaw sa supplies d’yan dahil ang nangangailangan talaga ‘yong mga nangangalaga,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said.

The Department of Trade and Industry also sought at least five million masks for the health agency and its personnel.

Several Chinese nationals, meanwhile, were lauded online as they were captured distributing surgical masks for free to Filipinos in the busy districts of Ayala Avenue in Makati and in some parts of Manila.

The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry also donated 600,000 more masks to the Philippines.