(GOOD PRACTICE FEATURE)
ORMOC’S PROACTIVE AND INCLUSIVE SYSTEM AGAINST COVID
The City of Ormoc, through the leadership of Mayor Richard I. Gomez, has been known and commended nationwide for its proactive response to the imminent threat of the novel coronavirus. The local government was lauded for being the last independent component city in the country to have no confirmed case of COVID-19 for almost six months since January 30, when the Philippines recorded its first positive case.
Mayor Gomez in an interview last April said that it was the early and strict implementation of the lockdown that kept the city COVID-free. Although Ormoc recorded its first positive patient last June 5 and has recorded 50 patients as of writing due to the influx of returning residents, Ormoc City is still coping with and on top of the current COVID-19 situation.
As early as March 2020, the local government had already issued several executive orders as part of its efforts to prevent the transmission of the dread disease in the locality. Hence, a multi-agency COVID-19 Task Force was created, and prescribed guidelines for the prevention, containment, contact tracing and measures against the disease were already set. Emergency response teams up to the barangay level were organized, and health protocols in schools and offices were likewise established. Working days for government workers were reduced to four per week in order to minimize face-to-face contact with other people.
Ormoc City was one of the first few local government units (LGUs) in the country to declare a community quarantine imposing border control measures. Individuals, who wish to enter the city, were required to submit health forms and to follow strict quarantine protocols. Although the said move of the city initially did not go well with the residents from the adjacent municipalities, such proactive action was actually emulated by the nearby LGUs which later impose their own preventive measures.
Days before the placement of Luzon in Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), Ormoc City has already imposed city-wide community quarantine and has been implementing stringent preventive measures to ensure the lessening of the risk of transmission even at the expense of economic activities in the city. From time to time, it has been noted that more preventive measures were added in order to maintain the city’s COVID-free state. All non-essential businesses and even their famous tourist attractions like Lake Danao and Ormoc Museum were temporarily closed. The entry of individuals via land and sea travel was regulated. Classes were suspended and public curfew was imposed. Ambulances carrying patients with respiratory distress were not allowed to enter the city borders.
Mayor Gomez has also been active in convening with hospital administrators and representatives, the Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to discuss management and precautionary measures. All barangay chiefs were likewise organized in order to come up with standard protocols for COVID-19 response. He also ordered the cancellation of trip of 50 individuals from Cebu amid netizen’s disagreement of accepting them.
The My Ormoc City Mobile Application and the Ormoc City Government Website, which was created and developed a few years back, have proved to be even more useful in updating the people on the COVID-19 situation of the city. The city likewise established a dedicated Facebook page to reach more Ormocanons. Indeed, the city used every online mode to ensure that its constituents are not late in the news. The local government also established hotline numbers for COVID-19 related reports.
As the COVID-19 threat worsened and the number of PUIs and PUMs continue d to rise in March, the Ormoc City Sangguniang Panlungsod passed a resolution to discourage businesses from overpricing and hoarding essential goods. Protecting the Ormocanons from unscrupulous acts of business entities has always been at the back of the mind of the leaders of Ormoc City. Thus its Local Price Coordinating Council, led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other members, closely monitored price movements in the local market. The city talked with businesses involved in production, trading and distribution of goods for win-win solutions that would benefit the consuming public.
Instilling observance of health protocols
Emphasizing the importance of social distancing to delay the spread of the virus, the city strictly regulated its public market. Vehicles were prohibited in some streets to give more space for pedestrians to practice social distancing. Uniformed officers helped by force multipliers regulated parking, loading, and unloading of vehicles. A “no mask, no entry” policy was imposed in the complex.
Both retail and service establishments were advised to strictly implement social distancing. Minors were not allowed to enter leisure shops including but not limited to internet cafes, movie houses, computer gaming cafes, and ‘pisonets’ and ‘singkonets’. Moreover, city banned the sale of liquor as well as drinking alcohol in public.
Quarantine and Isolation facilities prepared
In preparation for a worst-case scenario of having a sudden increase in confirmed patients, the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), General Service Department (GSD) and the Liga ng mga Barangay initiated major housekeeping activities to prepare the Ormoc City Hospital as an isolation facility called the Ormoc City Unified COVID-19 Facility. Mayor Gomez ordered all 100 barangays to establish barangay isolation units. On April 1, the Ormoc City Hospital became ready as an isolation facility.
A number of task forces were likewise created after the issuance of several executive orders by the city government. One is the COVID-19 Social Support Task Force which aims to come up with a plan to minimize the social and economic impact of imposed measures against COVID-19, and identify immediate and longer-term recovery strategies for those most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. Some of the task forces that were also created include the Economic Support and Recovery Task Force, and the Resident Recovery Task Force on the repatriation efforts of stranded Ormocanons.
Currently, the Ormoc City Unified COVID-19 Isolation Facility (Ormoc City Hospital) is being run by private hospitals, OSPA-FMC, Gatchalian Hospital and Ormoc Doctors Hospital, in cooperation with the LGU through a MOA. The LGU takes care of the food, electricity and water needs of the facility. The private hospitals provide the nurses and IWs (attendants). The PPEs used are being charged to the patients. Donated non-medical grade PPEs are with other frontliners.
All sectors involved
Ormoc City has likewise shown the whole nation how it is to heal as one. The barangays and other sectoral organizations such as MSMEs, Police and Security, Health Sector, Labor and Commerce, Agro-Industrial Companies, Social Welfare and Socio-Civic Organizations were prepared and mobilized to have an invaluable part in the city’s holistic response in the fight against COVID-19.
The private sector offered resources to help make the city COVID-19 free and to mitigate the negative impacts of the preventive measures. Several retail outlets offered food to frontliners and organizations donated PPEs. Local bus operators moved essential workers to their workplaces and a local bioethanol producer donated disinfectants.
The city has also set its current priorities straight when the Fiesta 2020 Execom unanimously approved the cancellation of several planned activities and to convert its efforts into the Ormoc City COVID-19 Bayanihan Donation Drive. Deploying local farmers to help disinfect city streets regularly was also initiated since Ormoc City is known to be an agricultural city. Such move of the local government earned praise from netizens in social media for their creativity.
Another best practice of the city that was commended by many was the distribution of one sack of rice per household. The first batch of milled rice received by the city government was intended to more than 60,000 households in Ormoc City. According to the mayor, this will have a logistical edge over distributing smaller amounts of the commodity repetitively within shorter period of time. The Ormoc City Local Price Coordinating Council also started the Diskwento Caravan for affordable whole dressed chicken.
Encouraging every citizens to do backyard gardening has also been one of the priorities of the city during the pandemic. Thus, the City Agriculture Office distributed free seeds to all barangays which was fully endorsed by the City Mayor. Satellite Markets Diskwento Caravan was also done in Barangay Valencia, Curva, Ipil, Dolores, City Proper and D.F. Mejia in cooperation with local products distributors in the city. Local produce includes fish, eggs, vegetables, dried fish and meats as well as groceries and medicines with farm-gate prices or distributors price.
Though the City of Ormoc has already logged 50 confirmed COVID-19 positive patients, it cannot be denied that the city government has been proactive in implementing a number of preventive measures to ensure that the city would remain COVID-free and at the same time prepared whenever cases start to rise. In fact, Mayor Gomez even joined numerous webinars with the League of Cities in the Philippines and National Resilience Council to share the strategies which have been proven effective for Ormoc City. His success in making the city free from the virus for several months has been remarkably noted as one of the country’s best practices that all LGUs should emulate. From strictly implementing an early lockdown to efficiently distributing sufficient relief goods and sacks of rice, Ormoc City has shown the whole country how it is to fight against COVID-19 without compromising the safety and welfare of its constituents. ###
Hartley James P. Teves
Writer / Information Officer
DILG-8 Communications Unit
Karl Caesar R. Rimando, CESO III
HARNESSING INNOVATION AND TRANSPARENCY IN FIGHT VS. COVID 19
Arteche, Eastern Samar
Farmers usually get the short end of the stick compared to those who buy their unhusked rice or palay. On the other hand the town of Arteche a third class municipality in Eastern Samar, also needed rice for distribution to its residents.
The local government initiated the “Humay Para Kada Balay” (Palay for Every Home) program, with the LGU buying palay from farmers-residents at a minimum of P15 pesos per kilo or P750 per sack compared to commercial traders which bought them at only 10 pesos per kilo or 500 pesos per sack. This amount is added money for the farmers who no longer needed to worry about where to sell their products, and the LGU was able to gather the rice it would need to distribute as relief goods.
Arteche Mayor Roland “Boie” Evardone said that the price the LGU paid for unhusked rice may have been only a little lower than the cost of buying NFA rice, which sells at P1,250 per sack. “An aton kasi katuyuanan liwat hin nga maka bulig kita han aton mga parag-uma. Ngan nasiguro naton nga an aton produkto waray na higawas han Arteche,” (Our purpose is to help our farmers and we are able to make certain that the products do not go out of Arteche), he said.
The LGU has already bought from farmers 6,000 kilos of palay and plans to buy a total of 50,000 kilos to promote food security in the town and help the local farmers. The LGU’s Humay Para ha Kada Balay program has been featured in TV Patrol Eastern Visayas daily news program.
Meanwhile to avert allegations of favoritism and selective distribution of assistance during a disaster, Mayor Evardone posted lists of qualified recipients of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) by barangay for transparency and popular participation. The posts includes the names of excluded families as well as the explanation. In addition the mayor asks the public for inputs on names submitted by the town’s 20 barangays.
Likewise, in explaining why multiple indigent families in a single house may not be accommodated in the SAP, Mayor Evardone detailed that while the town has 4,503 families, its SAP allocation minus the 4Ps families is only 1,756, thus there would definitely be a shortfall.
The mayor’s efforts have surprisingly been met positively. “…klarado nga pag explikar. Tuyo nala di mag intindi ta im mga nasasakupan. I love it :) (Clear explanation. It depends on the reader if he/she refuses to understand)”, said Macoy Montances.
As of June 26, the LGU has 5 suspected COVID cases but has not experienced a confirmed nor resolved COVID case. During crisis, a leader’s practice of transparency and innovation goes a long way to find solutions to common problems. ###