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Photo essay: Covid-19 in Northern Mindanao

March 24, 2020

LOCAL official in Northern Mmindanao have started implementing the Enhanced Community Quarantine in their respective areas to prevent the spread of Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). In Cagayan de Oro City, Mayor Oscar Moreno signed the Executive Order (EO) No. 052 series 2020 “An Order Enforcing the Social Distancing Guidelines of Department of Transportation (DOTr) in Cagayan de Oro City and For Other Purposes," March 24. In Camiguin, the provincial government placed the entire province under Preemptive Community Quarantine (PCQ) starting March 24 until April 12, 2020.

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(Statement) Let’s Do It Better in Mindanao: A Community-Driven and Community-Oriented Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 24, 2020

THE Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) has already spread throughout the country with an increasing number of confirmed cases in Mindanao. Several towns and provinces have also declared state of calamities and imposed quarantine measures, a notable step in addressing the threat. The “lockdown” in Metro Manila, and subsequently the Luzon-wide, with its vague and incoherent plans, has caused panic and fear among the population. Preventive measures to spread the virus, like the primacy given to military and police checkpoints, have instead worsened the already poor state of low-income communities. The ensuing confusion and public disarray shows the lack of a cohesive, comprehensive, and strategic government plan that takes into account our Third World realities. Because of its nature, COVID-19 should be seen as a novel form of hazard that can lead to a public health disaster if not addressed appropriately. Our public health system has already shown itself incapable of addressing even existing contagions like dengue and polio. Thus, like any other disaster risk assessments, interventions should give priority to the population with high risk of exposure, most vulnerable, and least adaptive capacity. Recent statistics show that Mindanao hosts the regions with high poverty incidence, high rates of malnutrition, high incidence of acute respiratory illnesses, low social protection coverage, and poor access to health care facilities. This looming scenario in Mindanao is highly probable given the economic capacity and labor portfolio of the region – seasonal workers, farmworkers, contractual workers, street peddlers, poor peasants, indigenous peoples, and the countless unemployed. With pre-existing corruption and governance problems, widespread landlessness, and food insecurity, COVID-19 will surely affect the majority of the poor of Mindanao because of these multiple burdens. As Mindanao LGUs are planning for worst case scenarios, we take lessons from the ongoing Luzon lockdown and experiences of other countries in fighting the pandemic.  We hereby suggest the following to brace and further cushion the impact on the poor: 1. TARGETED MASS TESTING NOW. Mindanaoans should unite in calling for mass and sustained testing as recommended by the World Health Organization. DOH is playing the waiting game as it deemed the intervention “unnecessary” as of the moment. We take the experience of South Korea where it continuously conducted tests on a massive scale to monitor in almost real-time the extent of the spread of the virus. However, given current limitations, we need to prioritize and target mass testing for persons under monitoring, persons under investigation, the elderly, and those vulnerable due to chronic health and nutrition problems like poor women and children, indigenous peoples, workers in frontline services including health workers, and the urban poor. Our country recently received 100,000 test kits from South Korea, China, and Brunei. Though better than nothing, it can only test less than 1% of the Metro Manila population. The national government should re-allocate a big chunk of its P27.1B COVID-19 war chest to acquire more test kits. The national government should also fully support the efforts of our UP Diliman scientists that have developed our own test kits by doing away with bureaucratic red tape and giving adequate funds to hasten its mass production and distribution. Targeted mass testing will enable us to achieve a baseline which can then lead to correct clinical, public health, environmental, social, and political measures to contain the pandemic, aside from clearly saving lives. 2. FULL MOBILIZATION OF HEALTH WORKERS IN COMMUNITIES. We need to capacitate and deploy barangay health workers and community health workers as multiplier frontliners in communities for health and sanitation campaigns, primary health care, testing, and referrals. These workers can work with LGUs, people’s organizations, and other civil society organizations to mobilize in full WASH resources in communities – meaning, improving and/or maintaining uninterrupted access to water supply to sustain proper hygiene and sanitation, especially for the upcoming summer months. The government can also rationalize the deployment of health professionals such that private sector doctors, nurses and health personnel can reinforce the dearth in and the weaker capacities of public hospitals. Along with the rest of the medical respondents, those in the frontlines must be provided with the most optimum standards on healthcare supply of personal protective equipment, proper transportation, sufficient food, adequate temporary quarters, among others, to ensure the safety and welfare of those providing urgent medical care. With the lack of testing kits and hospitals, a clear diagnosis/testing and health referral systems from primary, secondary, to tertiary health care levels from sitio, purok, barangay, to district/city/regional levels should be set up. 3. EMERGENCY CASH SUBSIDIES, FOOD ASSISTANCE, AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS FOR AT LEAST ONE MONTH . The Metro Manila experience showed that the rank-and-file “skeletal workforce” who keep running the food supply chains and other “essential services” are most exposed, and are highly vulnerable because of insecure contract work living on daily wage that does not even cover sick pay in most cases. These are the jeepney, bus and pedicab drivers, market and ambulat vendors, and the contractual workers in the service sector.  Immediate release of at least 10,000 pesos Emergency Cash Subsidies or Cash Transfer  must be provided to each daily-wage worker and workers in the informal sectors. Additional Occupational Safety and Hazard pay, transport to-and-from work, among others must be provided for all government and private sector workers that are running the economy under these circumstances. Employers of dislocated workers or workers who do not have the privilege to work from home must be enforced with no-work/paid salary releases.  A minimum of one month wages, salary and benefits should be given as experience from China and Italy shows a month is not enough to stem the spread of infection. Loss of income means lowered nutrition leading to lowered immunity. Containing the infection without addressing the people’s economic livelihood and nutrition may render quarantine efforts futile. 4. GOVERNMENT BUY-IN OF AGRICULTURAL FOOD SUPPLY FOR DISTRIBUTION TO THE PEOPLE. In Mindanao where more than 40% of the country’s agricultural supply is from, DSWD and LGUs can source local agricultural products from poor farmers as food packs. This way, farmers can still earn income when markets are closed while providing healthy options to communities in times of hunger. The mobilization of agricultural food supply is critical in that a month of noodles and sardines now being given to many residents in poor communities will do little to boost immunity against the virus. 5. MANDATORY PROFIT-SHARING BY BIG BUSINESS. This is a critical time to mandate profit-sharing of big business part of which should be channeled to workers amelioration, funds for research and development of state universities and colleges related to the containment of the virus, and funds to carry out a higher and bigger level of corporate social responsibility particularly in urban poor communities. Many of these big businesses have profited from mass consumption spending and should now share substantial profits, not just pittance contributions, for public health. 6. CONSUMER WELFARE. Consumer welfare monitoring and control should be strictly enforced through price control of basic commodities and punishment of violators, ensuring uninterrupted basic services such as water and power supply, subsidizing free public transport to effectively enforce social distancing schemes, prohibition and punishment for loan sharks taking advantage of the situation, unhampered access to banks and financial services, waiving of rebooking fees for all modes of transportation and monitoring of surge prices, waiving of all penalties, fines on mortgages, loans, taxes, etc. Monthly bills on light, water and other utilities should be waived because consumption certainly increases as family members stay together for a prolonged period in home quarantine. 7. RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE PURSUIT OF PUBLIC HEALTH. In light of the reports of illegal arrest and detention during the first few days of the lockdown, the military and the police should exercise respect for human rights and refrain from imposing security measures that are detrimental to the life and liberty of individuals. The setting up of checkpoints and the deployment of military and police personnel per se pose a risk to the health of individuals who were forced to line up en masse to fill up forms, present IDs and be medically checked. The military, PNP, and health personnel deployed in the frontlines should also be provided with adequate personal protective gear and equipment so as to avoid being infected and infect others. 8. INFORMATION NOT ABSOLUTE ISOLATION, EMPOWERMENT NOT STIGMATIZATION. The people need to be empowered with the correct information about the nature of the virus and how each individual can deal with it. Information should come in a clear and timely manner such that NTC advisories, for example, are not delayed and provide concrete and helpful advice. A campaign against stigmatization should also be carried out to encourage citizens to report their symptoms rather keep them for fear of community isolation. The communities themselves should be included in developing localized measures for social distancing in public places, as well as in formulating mechanisms for quarantines. Indigenous peoples, for example, have shown their own effective ways of containment of infectious diseases like measles. With this mindset in the populace, vigilance against COVID-19 becomes a voluntary collective responsibility. Our experience in the people-driven disaster response shows that communities are more receptive and cooperative if they themselves are involved. With these, we call on the government as well as people’s organizations and the rest of the civil society to face the virus threat collectively with solidarity and care for one another. BISHOP MELZAR LABUNTOG CHAIRPERSON balsamindanao@gmail.com

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Ligo Philippines redirects advertising funds to COVID-19 relief and response efforts

March 22, 2020

LIGO Philippines is aware of the challenges that many kababayans face everyday as they protect themselves from Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). It has been prioritizing Filipinos’ welfare since the beginning and like everyone, it puts people’s health and safety as its top priorities. As an act of solidarity, Ligo Philippines is reallocating its entire advertising budget this year, effective immediately. The brand will be donating the fund to non-government organizations, charities, and individual groups who are at the forefront of the COVID-19 relief and response efforts. “We will work hard to provide for you in times that you need us most,” says Ligo Vice President for Advertising and Promotion Macky Tung. “We pledge to deliver food and supplies, including our classic products, to the most affected families and communities; provide relief and assistance to health workers and other front liners; and equip them with Personal Protective Equipment. We will coordinate with Local Government Units to ensure orderly distribution”. Ligo has always been an integral part of Filipino kitchens and it strives to continue to live by its role in both big and small ways. “This is just the beginning of our bayanihan. We know that as one nation, one family, we will persevere and see better days,” adds Tung. (PR)

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Splendid isolation

March 20, 2020

SOCIAL anxiety is the single most common psychological problem according to innumerable survey results worldwide. The magnificent, gorgeous and excellent isolation, resulting out of being nervous when meeting people is really the opposite. The state of being isolated, reminds me of being in a hospital with an infectious disease. Especially nowadays while experiencing the Coronavirus spreading all around the world. Does the project of giving a speech or going to a social gathering give you the willies? Relax, there are always ways and solutions to help you by teaching you "never to be nervous again". I have been always the most silent pupil in elementary and high school. I was ashamed even to talk to or with my teachers. Several terrible school records have been the result. But, I wanted to become a journalist. I am still one. And, I was  teaching 12 years at an university. I will be teaching again German language soon at Ateneo de Davao. During college times and while writing my first articles, I learned from my first boss, a daily news publisher, to avoid being nervous while meeting people. I was always prepared. Preparation for any communicating situation is a must. I have been invited to many parties and gatherings. I always asked for the guest list. I scanned all newspapers and browsed in the net. "In your opinion, who..." or "What do you think of....?" kept the momentum going. That was sometime during the 1960's. Since that time I was just very lucky to meet always the right people at the right time and place, which kept on teaching me how to avoid splendid isolation. Whether you're delivering a speech, approaching your boss, or joining an important social occasion, do at first your homework. The most polished, smoothly delivered and spontaneous soundings talks are the result of many hours of work and years long experiences. The memorable one-liners and moving phrases that went down in history didn't come from the last minute bursts of inspiration. I also learned from Harvard University historian Richard Marius, "that good writing is a kind of wresting with thought". Or, as New York Times columnist William Safire expressed before: "To communicate, put your thoughts in order, give them a purpose, use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce!" Let's don't forget, that everyone of us has something to be proud of, and that everyone enjoys talking about it. But, you have to make it happen! +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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Covid-19: A lesson learned for all

March 20, 2020

IT has been for almost a month, the corona virus (Covid-19) spread throughout the world. All countries get shocked. People in every country get panic. Governments and their leaders get upset due to the Covid.19. This virus was formely found in Wuhan, the city in China. Now, it has sprd all over the world. It needs pondering. The Covid-19 outbreak is a lesson learned for the nations throughout the world. People are on the same feeling. All nations in any country throughout the world are feeling the same. We are scared. We are terrorized. In fact, this covid.19 outbreak is the most cruel terrorist we have ever seen. Not all country has examined the effect of corona issue on their economy decline. But, ij China itself, this corona cirus ourbreak has made their economy collaps.  As it is reported by Helen Davidson, the Guardian (16/3/2020), it has made China’s economy drop drastically. In China, industrial output fell 13.5% in January-February. Fixed asset investment also fell 24.5%. Private sector investment also fell by 26/4%. Still other sector that is retail sales shrank by 20.6%. This is the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak in China as it was found in Wuhan city in that country. We believe that this can also occur in other countries. As reported by Bloomberg (6/3/2020), in China, automobile sales plunged 80%, passenger traffic was down 85%. As it is predicted, China economy won’t get better due to this corona outbreak. How about other countries. What we can eyewitness is only the chaos of the nations. Many all the nations throughout the world get panic. They order schools to stop their teaching and learning processes. They also order all agencies, government and privates offices to stop operation. They can wotrk from home. In my country, Indonesia, from today (while I am writing this article), Sunday, March 15, 2020, people are instructed to stay at home. I also begin working from home. All the classes are held in online ways. I also write some program ot learning on the website of e-learning. All my students are stayinmg at home while they are also doing their assigment by online learning. All the nations in the globe have the same enemy: corona outbreak. This si the phenomenon, encountering all the people throughout the world. We are feeling the same. But, the most cruel one in this case is the Covid.19. In fact, Corona virus is the most cruel terrorist in the world. We had had an epidemic few years ago: Avian flu. It was also the tragedy years ago but the effect on the global economy was not as a serious as Corona virus. Avian influenza is caused by a virus but do not infect people globally. The human infection with this virus have been reported due to the carrier by the infected birds. The birds shed avian influenza virus in their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections with bird flu viruses can happen when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. It is spread through the air. The virus outbreak was not so devastating like the Covid.19. The effect of avian influenza was not as disastrous as Corona virus outbreak today. Yet, Covid-19 is a lesson learned for all human beings in the world. If this virus exist naturally, it will be the problem medically to learn. There must be some efforts in medical schools for innovation. Innovation to create the panacea.  The medical; schools have time to work hard. They have to find the medicine for this corona virus.However, if the corona virus was intentionally created by the human beings— and it is uncontrollable—the human beings should be responsible for it. It is the cruelest terrorist in the world. If not, then we have to learn from this tragedy.  What we have to do is the human rights in innovation. There must be regulation. There must be rules-based innovation. A lesson learned from corona virus is clear. We cannot live in the globe in isolation. We have to be peaceful. We have to be friendly. We have to be understanding one another. This tragedy provides us with evidence that all human beings are created by the same Creator. We are, in general, the same: scared of being dead: the Covid-19 outbreak has the effect on all of us. It is a lesson learned. ********** Editor's Note: Dr. Djuwari Sarkawi is the director of language laboratory at STIE Perbanas Surabaya, the editor of some research journals in the Philippines and Indonesia. He is also a journalist in some newspapers in Indonesia; the president of international association of scholarly publishers, editors, and reviewers (IASPER).

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Mitigation, not lockdown is best for CDO

March 20, 2020

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—As I write this, President Rodrigo Duterte had yet to make official confirmation of so-called ‘enhanced community quarantine’ in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19. Again as I write this, the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 140 and the death toll is now at 12 and anyone in the communication business knows the numbers will fluctuate higher or lower whichever is the case. What is clear for now at least in Cagayan de Oro City is that there is NO LOCAL TRANSMISSION of the secondary kind and that Patient 40 who died at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) is not from the city but someone who worked in Pasig and went to Lanao province before being admitted to an Iligan City hospital for severe acute respiratory infection. Thanks to the doctors there, Patient 40 was tested and he had the misfortune of testing positive for SARS-COV 2, the causative agent for the now dreaded COVID-19 or coronavirus 2019, the year It was discovered. During Monday morning’s (March 16) press briefing at the mayor’s conference room, Mayor Oscar Moreno assumed responsibility for the victim’s burial at the Bolonsiri public cemetery in Barangay Camanan-an, saying all precautions were taken and the wishes of the victim’s family honored with a simple burial out of respect for their Islamic beliefs. Like any Kagay-anon or Misamisnon—I was born in Tagoloan town and spent a good chunk of my media career in Cagayan de Oro City—I kept tabs through friends and social media contacts about the contingency measures undertaken by the Moreno administration at Cagayan de Oro City Hall to protect the city from COVID-19 and based on what the mayor said and what his administration had done so far, it is quite good to say the least. I also saw the negative comments which can turn downright nasty against Mayor Moreno’s decision not to impose a lockdown on the city and he acknowledged this social media bashing yet admirably stood his ground believing that his decisions and policies will ultimately be beneficial to Kagay-anons. I hope to God that it will be so. It’s quite easy for these armchair experts to make shout outs in social media, deriding and downright insulting Mayor Moreno for his reluctance to declare a lockdown in the city. But let’s not resort to the all-too-common caveat cited by parochial traditional politicians whose decisions are questioned by their critics by telling these naysayers ‘mag-mayor sa muna kayo (you run first for mayor).’ Rather let us at first sift through the posts to determine if there is any wisdom or shred of evidence that would support the argument for a lockdown and based on what I read, the only common reason they came up with is that other local governments are doing it, why not Cagayan de Oro? And surprise, surprise, these pro-lockdown proponents expect the city government to provide them food and other essentials straight to their doorsteps for at least three to four days or however long this COVID-19 crisis will last. Am thinking aloud, how much would it cost the city government to actually do what these lockdown supporters want, nay demand and expect? The city government has a P7 billion budget allocated for 2020 and the funds are appropriated for a host of concerns like peace and order, education, infrastructure and so on. The city has 700,000 plus city residents so can the city government afford to do this? These critics should do the math if only to support their argument. In fact they should do more than math, they should produce incontrovertible, undisputable evidence that would justify a total or even partial lockdown of Cagayan de Oro City. In fact what Mayor Moreno is doing right now and which I fully support, is mitigation. And please, trolls and pro-lockdown proponents, post something more useful than screaming social media posts and actually help the medical staff, doctors and nurses that are at the frontline making sure that COVID-19 won’t infect any city resident. Am I making it clear that it’s not easy for Mayor Moreno to make these decisions, unpopular though it may be to the rest of the city populace? I understand the fear and sentiments since I also have family living in Cagayan de Oro but as Mayor Moreno said, closing the city’s borders will dislocate the patients from other parts of northern Mindanao who have sought or are already undergoing treatment for other ailments as well as shut down government offices in the city who service other constituents outside of Cagayan de Oro. I understand that the city government will extend some assistance to the daily wage, ‘no work, no pay’ workers whose livelihood will be affected by the temporary closure of malls that Moreno ordered as a mitigation measure. And other mitigation measures that include the temporary suspension of the night markets, a 10 pm-5 am curfew starting on March 17 and continued operation of essential businesses, such as supermarkets, grocery stores, even food outlets that can serve their customers in their premises or encourage them to order takeout instead. I could continue to argue my points but I’m too tired to justify them to those people who are adamantly close minded in their belief that a lockdown will solve the city’s problems on COVID-19.  What I do want to say is that Cagayan de Oro City residents should not panic and let these naysayers cause them to take drastic action that they will surely regret. It is by God’s grace that these pro lockdown proponents are not holding the reins of power at City Hall lest they do something that will screw up everyone in the city, a predicament we can ill afford. For once, let’s get our heads straight, focus on keeping COVID-19 out of the city by staying at home, keeping ourselves clean and supporting our health workers. It is time for to be resilient. God bless us all (For questions and comments please email at susanap@yahoo.com)

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