When messaging and realities collide

“We have money” was the consistent mantra of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD). This was echoed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as he boasted of the P275 billion funds under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan Heal as One Act of 2020. The biggest part of the funds, amounting to P200 billion, is allocated as a social amelioration package (SAP) in the form of emergency subsidies to low-income households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, the eagerness to share the ‘good news’ increased expectations that every household, will be entitled to the SAP. Frustrations increased when the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) imposed quotas to local government units (LGUs) on the number of families that will serve as beneficiaries. As a result, LGUs complained as the quota given them ranges from 30% to 65% of the household population in their respective jurisdictions. A poor village composed of 1,600 households in Legazpi City, for example, was given only 500 forms. The City of Manila with 435,237 households got only 185,000; Valenzuela with 155,000 households got only 95,000; and so on, and so forth. (Figures on the quota of recipients as against the total household population for some of the cities and municipalities in the greater Manila area are documented here.)

But the bigger problem is how PRRD casts a doubt on the credibility of the local officials. In his April 3, 2020 address to the public, he said “Pero maya ‘yung magdating doon makulang ang pera ‘pag ibigay mo 5,000, ibigay 3,000 lang. Kupit doon, kupit doon.” This puts the local officials at risks especially from the expectant and hungry public. Note that it was expectations and hunger that toppled the monarchy in France.

While we understand that the officials in the national government are consistently inconsistent in their messages and at some point undiscerning of their personal opinions and public statements, them holding their tongues in this trying times is in order. The national government passed on to the LGUs the responsibility of responding to the crisis. It will be more helpful if the national officials hold their acts together; assign and do not compete with a single mouthpiece from the Executive Department; and provide the appropriate policy and technical support to LGUs. Remember that the objective is to heal as one and not “epal everyone”. And, more importantly, note that we can only heal as one if we act as one.

Call for Urgent Unified Coordinated Action vs Covid-19: #PreventProtectHeal

Dok Eddie Dorotan | Covid19 Action Network (#weCAN!) | April 3, 2020

We are now into the 3rd week since Lockdown. To be exact, we are on Day 20 of Lockdown since March 15.

To date, 136 have died and 3,018 have been detected Covid+. This is a 12-fold rise in deaths (from 11) and 21-fold rise in positive cases (from 140) in just 20 days.

Seventeen (17) fellow doctors – many I personally know – have fallen. Nakakalungkot.

These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. In the following weeks, we will see more and more cases detected and more deaths. We can even go into deeper disaster if we don’t get our acts together NOW.

In this time of great uncertainties brought about by the disruptive Covid19, we need adaptive responses to the challenges that don’t have easy answers.

We recommend the following 6-point action:

  1. Don’t lift the lockdown until cases go down.

This may last for another 1-2months. We have to prevent the spread of the virus. Stay home. No mass gathering. Social distancing. Wear mask. Wash hand. But let the supply chain flow unhampered.

Consider the following criteria in lifting or modifying the Lockdown: Sharp reduction of cases as demonstrated by a consistent downward Covid infection slope; Increase capacity and ability of medical facilities to treat all patients, particularly those hospitalized which means having adequate PPEs, ventilators, testing kits, and the like; Testing of all people with Covid-19 symptoms; Effective monitoring and contact tracing Relevant information outside Luzon lockdown

  1. Test Test Test!

We need to know where the enemy is. Testing is Key! Given the limited availability of the testing kits, let us prioritize testing the (1) symptomatics with co-morbidities, (2) those in contact with positive case, (3) frontline health workers.

  1. Heal the Sick

For moderate to severe Covid+ : admit to dedicated Covid hospitals; don’t mix Covid with non-Covid cases

For PUM, PUI, mild Covid+ : home quarantine if they have enough safe spaces; for those without sufficient spaces at home, bring to community quarantine facilities (e.g. Ultra, PICC, World Trade Center) of the national government or to the community quarantine facilities of LGUs. Biosafety has to be in place.

  1. Protect the Health Workers

Many of our health workers get infected and die because they are not protected enough. Provide them with necessary personal protective equipment (PPEs) like gowns, cover-all, glasses, masks, gloves. They are sacrificing their lives so that others will live. Support them with food and prayers, too.

  1. Strengthen the frontlines through improved community management

Our first line of defense is not the hospital care. It is our last defense.

Our first line of defense is at the individual level, at our homes, in our communities and LGUs with our barangay health workers, our city/municipal/provincial health workers.

We need to reorganize our health system from a patient-centered model of care to a community system approach that offers solutions for the entire population, rich and poor, rural and urban.

  1. Take care of the poor and the vulnerable

The rich can take care of themselves during lockdown, but what about the poor, the unemployed and the vulnerable sector? Let us roll out cash transfers, food packages, health benefits, and others, from all corners: national and local government, private sector and civil society. This is the time to take care more of our brothers and sisters who have less in life.

To do all of the above things, we need to unite, cooperate, and collaborate. Do not be distracted with petty ramblings, fake news, politicking. We are not the enemy. Our common enemy is the Covid19!

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.

Spreading undue panic

My attention was called several times due to the post ‘“The Kit” and zero confirmed Covid-19 case in Bicol Region‘. Many were encouraging with a couple saying the post is spreading undue panic. The latter troubled me because that means I wasn’t successful in driving my message across.

The greatest failure in communication is when the sender is misunderstood. So I asked one of those with negative appreciation why he thinks that way. His response: The numbers are gloomy and you are implying that the lack of tested Covid-19 cases could just be a facade and imply that there is more.

The numbers, indeed, are gloomy but we can’t manipulate the numbers just to say that everything is well. As of March 23, there are already 462 confirmed cases in the country with 33 deaths. Allegedly, six of them are doctors. The sad thing is, we have only tested 1,619 and the Department of Health is still sitting on the idea of mass testing — again maybe because of the lack of manpower and testing kits.

We can package the message enticingly beautiful but the more we do so, the more we defeat the purpose of asking our fellowmen to follow quarantine rules, and encourage our government officials to compete with the real patients for the available resources and health workers’time as well as condone them to sit on their obligations. Patients are dying, some of them doctors, even before learning the results of their Covid tests while waiting for the results. Politicians, on the other hand, would want to be tested first and get their results fast despite the fact that they are asymptomatic and do not belong to the priority group that needs to be tested. At least 34 government officials demanded the Research Institute for Tropical medicine (RITM) to be tested.

In these trying times, we need to beef up hope. But that doesn’t mean we need to lie or tell half truths. That also doesn’t mean we should forget exacting accountability especially from those who that asked for and received our trusts — the government officials who are taking cuts in the form of taxes our hard-earned money. We did not elect or are paying for these officials to be the first to live and let the rest of us die.

We expect that we will have responsible officials and leaders who, like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, deferred Covid testing having no symptoms just to save resources and give way to those in need. And moreso, we expect government officials and leaders who, in these trying times, will lead us to that hope — a hope that together, as a country, as a people, we will live through the day worrying not about our food or bills or mortgages or rents; and wake up again tomorrow, find a cure and overcome this pandemic.

Facts and unadulterated truths could wake up our government officials. We have done this with some of the 34 officials who availed a VIP treatment for Covid testing asking for apology. We have done this that the Department of the Interior and Local Government was able to issue a warning to barangays that tried to make money out of the situation by selling quarantine passes. We have done this that attention are now slowly being given to our health workers and frontliners — albeit with some riding on the latter’s popularity. We have done this that the bill granting emergency powers to the President has been watered down and one of the crucial provisions removed — that is, the provision to grant the President the power to take over companies and utilities being run by the private sector.

We need to spread facts and unadulterated truths. That is what we should do. Lies and half truths fuel suspicion and that is what scares people. That is what causes panic.

Original source here>>>