'Why compare us to Singapore?': Palace disputes WHO report on Philippines coronavirus outbreak

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 02:59 PM

A health worker interviews a patient at the San Juan COVID-19 Kalinga Center on April 19, 2020. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA-- Malacañang disputed on Monday the World Health Organization's report that the Philippines is leading the rise of COVID-19 cases in the Western Pacific region. 

At the same time, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said it was not proper to compare Philippines to first-world Singapore, which has a smaller population. 

"We beg to disagree. Syempre po kung titingnan natin yung pagtaas ng kaso dapat 'yan in relation to your population," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

(Of course if you look at the rise in cases that should be reviewed in relation to the population.)

Roque questioned the WHO statistics as he argued that a country's population should be considered in comparing the speed of transmission of the virus in different parts of the world.
"Bakit tayo ikukumpara sa Singapore eh ang Singapore 5 milyon lang po yan. Isang siyudad lang po yan," Roque said.

(Why are we being compared to Singapore when they only have 5 million people. That's like one city.)

A report from the WHO showed that from June 17 to 23, the Philippines recorded the most number of new COVID-19 cases with the fastest 7-day moving average in the Western Pacific region.

Screenshot from the WHO COVID-19 Situation Report for the Western Pacific Region

But Roque claimed that the Philippines only ranked sixth in the Western Pacific region if the cases were divided on a per million population basis, with India topping the list followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Singapore.

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia however are not part of the Western Pacific region based on the WHO's demographical classification.

Pakistan is classified by WHO under the Eastern Mediterranean region while the 3 other countries are under the South-East Asia region classification.

Roque's presentation also ranked COVID-19 cases in the entire Asia instead of WHO's category, Western Pacific Region.

Screenshot from Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque's presentation

When asked about the erroneous classification, Roque said: "I'm not going nitpicking on this but as far as I know, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are still Asian countries."

The Palace spokesman also insisted that the government took the right steps to address the health crisis.

"To reiterate, nothing to be ashamed of in terms of density, we are not one in Western Pacific, pero para sa akin hindi naman ito contest," he said.

The Department of Health on Sunday said the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines should not be compared to other countries without considering its socioeconomic context.

"Our socioeconomic context, particularly living conditions, as well as health system capacity, even prior to COVID, is different from Singapore. Please take that into account when we do our analysis. Let us not cherry pick the countries we want to compare ourselves to," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

As of June 28, the Philippines has confirmed 35,455 COVID-19 cases. This includes 1,244 deaths and 9,686 recoveries.