GRP’s decision tool for ECQ modification

I initially thought that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed by the government could give me a nice and comfortable rest. Unfortunately, the work from home scheme literally meant more work at home for me — sometimes having four to six virtual meetings a day. especially in times when connectivity is a challenge.

But I admit I enjoy the scheme, too, because apart from squeezing a bonding with my family in between meetings, I meet the peers that I rarely see and the people I used to work with without a heavy investment on gas and traffic. One of those that I met again is Karl Chua, the acting Socioeconomic Secretary of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). Karl used to be one of the Team Leaders I worked with in the World Bank.

Karl graced yesterday’s meeting organized by the Philippine Covid-19 Action Network (CAN). I must say he is one of the those who talks clearly and with sense in the Duterte Government. He explained the need to extend the ECQ but must be modified so as to balance economic revitalization and controlling the spread of the Coronavirus disease — almost the same as our proposal of a selective ECQ.

He admitted that like the rest of the world, the government is also learning on how to respond to Covid 19 — at times even doing a trial and error approach. But as much as possible, the government (specifically the National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA and the Inter-Agency Task Force or IATF) would always base its decisions on science and data despite the seeming lack of it. Indeed, Covid-19 is the first of its kind and this pandemic is one of the biggest, if not the most hyped, in this era.

How the areas will be classified in terms of ECQ extension. (Credit: Sec. Karl Chua)

Painful as this may sound but the government needs to extend the ECQ. This time, however, the extension is modified in such a way that there is already a basis on which to extend and which should not. Based on the decision tool used, those that do not meet the minimum standards will continue to be on a lockdown until May 15. Basically, the standard includes the presence of a well-equipped health facility to treat the Covid-19 patients.

For those that satisfied the standards, geographical factors will be assessed and areas will be determined whether these are low-risk, medium risk or high risk areas. For high risk areas, ECQ will definitely be extended. These are the areas that still have positive Covid-19 patients.

ECQ will be lifted on April 30 for low risk areas while a modified ECQ will be implemented in moderate risk areas. For the latter, there will be age and health restrictions — i.e., the children and senior citizens will not be allowed to go outside their houses — and sector related restrictions particularly for non-essential working population.

The Luzon provinces that will be kept under lockdown are the following:

  • Metro Manila
  • Benguet*
  • Pangasinan*
  • Bataan
  • Bulacan
  • Nueva Ecija
  • Pampanga
  • Tarlac*
  • Zambales*
  • Batangas
  • Laguna
  • Cavite
  • Rizal
  • Quezon
  • Albay
  • Island of Mindoro (Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro)
  • Catanduanes

VISAYAS

  • Antique*
  • Iloilo*
  • Cebu*
  • Cebu City*

MINDANAO

  • Davao del Norte*
  • Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley)*
  • Davao City*

*The high-risk assessment for these areas would be reviewed and may change before April 30.

Karl admits that the tool is not that perfect but it is better than having no tool at all. Besides, we cannot wait for time to stop just to come up with a better tool in these times when people are dying and the government needs to decide.

Addressing the food accessibility problem under ECQ

So what if there is P5,000 to P8,000 cash assistance from the Philippine government if there is nothing to buy?

Just a few days ago, we witnessed a group of citizens protesting for the lack of food. The group was rounded up by government forces with 21 of the protesters charged with various cases — including the violation of the “Heal as One Act” or the Republic Act No. 11469. Unfortunately, prison and insensible government action will never fill a hungry tummy. Take it as a lesson from the French Revolution.

Similarly, distributing money will not solve the issue. Some of those who joined the guerilla warfare in the Bicol Region during the World War II were either insulted or disgruntled because a basketful of Japanese paper money that could not even buy a cup of rice. So before the hungry tummies trigger a major political disruption, let us address the issue being complicated by the enhanced community quarantine and the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19): the lack of food.

Fortunately, there is ample supply of food according to the Department of Agriculture. Fortunately, too, the government has established mechanisms for an unhampered delivery of supplies. What is in paper, however, is not always true in practice. Hence, while harvests are rotting in farms, food shortage is looming in the country. The reason: transporting the agricultural products to the markets and consumers.

Among those supposedly exempted in checkpoints are cargo trucks and delivery vehicles carrying food products. The problem is, the guidelines are not clearly understood. Checkpoints were hard to deal with making this a bottleneck discouraging buyers and transporters.

So what could be done to address this?

  1. Translate the policies into easily digestible pieces in local and English languages. The fact that the policies are interpreted in different ways simply means they are not clearly understood.
  2. One common complaint is that empty vehicles and trucks are not allowed to pass in checkpoints. There are people manning the checkpoints who argued that only vehicles carrying food products are allowed — as if there is an endless supply of cargo vehicles from the farms, and as if there are sufficient parking spaces in the cities. To address this, a business permit should be enough to prove that the vehicle is used to carry food products, empty or not. It would be better if the Land Transportation Office also get its act and issue RFIDs to these cargo vehicles.
  3. Provide a special lane where cargo vehicles are a priority.
  4. To address the fear of human as COVID carriers, the Masbate province’s practice could be copied.When cargo trucks from different points of Luzon are loaded in roll-on roll-off vessels (ROROs) in Sorsogon ports, the drivers stay behind. Drivers in Masbate City unload the trucks from the ROROs, the government disinfects them, and the vehicles are eventually driven to their points of destination. Similar arrangements can also be done with cargo vehicles going in and out of the National Capital Region with one driver driving only inside the NCR, and another outside. The expressway toll gates should also provide disinfection and quarantine facilities for both the trucks and the drivers.

Do you know of any other ways to address this supply-chain issue? Feel free to drop a comment below.

Service delivery innovations under Covid-19 ‘lockdown’

With the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in Luzon and several areas in the Philippines, and the advent of social media that facilitates information-exchange and opinion/observation-sharing, local government units (LGUs) are forced to act and perform their duties. While some have been innovative enough to make the Coronavirus disease-19 (Covid-19) situation a money-making venture for their barangays by selling quarantine passes, a significant number of local officials are rising above the challenge and created innovations to deliver the services expected of them.

Updated as of April 5, 2020

“Adversity reveals genius” — Horace

With the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in Luzon and several areas in the Philippines, and the advent of social media that facilitates information-exchange and opinion/observation-sharing, local government units (LGUs) are forced to act and perform their duties. While some have been innovative enough to make the Coronavirus disease-19 (Covid-19) situation a money-making venture for their barangays by selling quarantine passes, a significant number of local officials are rising above the challenge and created innovations to deliver the services expected of them.

The list below is a work in progress. If you know of any LGU innovation in addressing Covid-19, feel free to drop a comment below.

Mobile Palengke, Pasig City. In the first few days of the ECQ, Pasig City was criticized because its public markets crowd with people violating the very essence of the lockdown cum quarantine. Instead of hitting back at critics, Mayor Vico Sotto deployed five roving stores that sell food and discourage the people from going to the market.

The Pasig City government’s “Mobile Palengke” which minimizes the tendency of the people to leave their homes just to buy food in the market during the coronavirus lockdown. Photo from Vico Sotto’s Facebook page

Anti-Hoarding Ordinance, Valenzuela and Pasig Cities. The Valenzuela City Ordinance No. 688 series of 2020 or popularly known as the Anti-Hoarding and Anti-Panic Buying Ordinance sets a temporary cap on the number of basic goods consumers can buy in times of public health emergencies. This is to prevent individuals from hoarding essential commodities particularly during the ECQ. Valenzuela’s ordinance was replicated also in Pasig City.

Disinfectant Drones, Pasig City. To minimize human exposure and be able to enter narrow streets and alleys, Pasig City procured  three units of the DJI MG-1P, an octocopter drone with a 10-liter payload. The drones were loaded with disinfecting solution and used as misting sprays. The 10-liter solution can cover an approximate distance of 300 meters.

Source: Batak Facebook page

Non-conventional Covid-19 Food Packs, various LGUs. The typical food pack is composed of rice, cans of sardines and noodles. But in these times when a strong immunity from Coronavirus is needed, the typical food pack contents is not enough. For Pasig City, they included vitamins.

In Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, Mayor Ferdinand Maliwanag distributed fresh fish not only as a food assistance but also as an income-generation mechanism for the local fishermen. Mandaluyong City in the National Capital Region also distributed fresh vegetables like fresh vegetables, like squash, bitter gourd, eggplant, and onion that the city government directly procured from the farmers of Nueva Ecija. For Alaminos City, Pangasinan, they also added watermelon. Distribution of fruits and vegetables is also a way to provide income for the farmers in the locality and neighboring areas.

Makeshift Rescue Tents, Mandaluyong City. To better implement the community quarantine, homeless individuals, street dwellers and vagabonds were rescued from the streets and temporarily housed in makeshift tents. Those rescued in the city but have houses outside the National Capital Region were given assistance to return to their residences.

Hotels as Quarantine Facilities, Makati City, Pasig City. To help address the shortage of beds and at the same time contain persons under investigation (PUI) for Covid-19, Makati and Pasig Cities converted hotels into isolation or quarantine centers. Makati converted the Makati Friendship Suites into a facility that can house up to 100 patients and equipped this with medical equipment including x-ray machines, defibrillators and cardiac monitors.

Pasig City also transformed Dahlia Hotel into a quarantine facility which can house up to 300 persons simultaneously. The Dahlia Hotel will be used for free with water and electricity consumption to be shouldered by the city government.

Earth-friendly rides for health workers and frontliners, Pasig City and Manila City. Because of the lockdown, mass transportation ceased operations. This became a challenge for health workers and frontliners in the fight against Covid-19 particularly for those who do not own vehicles. In Pasig City, in partnership with the Global Electric Transport, operated two electric buses that picks-up these quarantine-exempted individuals at designated time and places. Similarly, Manila City used e-trikes and hired their drivers thus achieving two goals — transportation of health workers and frontliners, and income generation for the e-trike drivers. The program is in partnership with the Department of Labor and Employment.

Pasig City’s e-vehicle deployed to transport healthworkers and frontliners and operationalized in partnership with GET.

Photo credit: Spin.ph

Read at Home Contest, Sangguniang Kabataan, Bigaa, Legazpi City. An initiative launched by SK Chairman Jordan Alpajaro of Bigaa, Legazpi City which aims to support the program of the Department of Education (DepEd) and make the community quarantine situation of the students more meaningful and productive. Under the program, students who may want to join may send a video of themselves reading along with a school ID. Students may join their representative grade categories, will be aired via Facebook, and judged according to mechanics.

Indelible ink markings of PUMs, Panganiban, Camarines Norte. Through Executive Order No. AMN-013-1T-2020, persons under monitoring (PUMs) are being marked with indelible ink on their forefingers. This is to strictly enforce the 14-day quarantine of PUMs.

Do you also know of other innovations or best practices in local government service delivery? Feel free to share.