latest headlines

Execs pass Anti-Patient’s Dishonesty law of 2020

March 26, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY: The City Council of Cagayan De Oro approved an ordinance that would punish patients who tell lies to the attending health personnel in times of state-declared health emergency. Known as the “Anti-Patient’s Dishonesty Law of 2020,” the ordinance penalizes a dishonest patient of a one-year imprisonment or a fine of not less than P1,000 but not more than P5,000. The local legislators approved the ordinance to “protect health workers, quarantine officers, other front liners and the general public from patients who put others at risk by being dishonest about their travel history and symptoms. The ordinance also provides that any person who are required to accomplish information sheet, data form, declaration or any similar document, shall state the truth and disclose all relevant information as may be required or may be asked by the health personnel such as but not limited to nurse, physician or their assistants. Those found to have knowingly and deliberately lie, committed dishonesty and/or withheld relevant information shall be meted the penalty of imprisonment and fine. 

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Moreno’s character, wisdom shines amid COVID-19 crisis

March 24, 2020

Charlotte, North Carolina—Good day to you dear readers,  I sincerely hope that all of you are doing well at your homes as each one of us around the world are on mandated ‘staycation mode’ while our governments and their health personnel wage war against the unseen enemy that is COVID-19. As I write this, I had just finished my online broadcast on Monday (March 23 Philippine time) at 105.5 Bay Radio FM Way Kurat, the radio station based in Balingasag town in which I talked about whether sex is safe in the time of COVID-19 (it is unsafe based the on global health guidelines requiring social distancing).  Truly this virus which came from Communist China had upended the lives of everyone on this planet, including my husband Ronnie and I who had to take extra care of ourselves being senior citizens. It also took me a week to see for myself how Cagayan de Oro City Hall under Mayor Oscar Moreno’s administration had responded to this global health crisis and I can say that, pending a major development, that the mayor and his allies had done quite the remarkable job of keeping COVID-19 out of the city. Let us repeat one fact that the mayor’s most malicious and vicious critics as well as those that either are too panicked that they can’t think straight or those with a hidden agenda—yes, there are still those who think of gaining political brownie points in this time of a global health crisis—conveniently ignore and bury under their  mountain of fake news, social media bashing and unfounded, noisy demands for a citywide lockdown: there is NO LOCAL TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19 IN CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY SO FAR, based on the latest findings by the Department of Health (DOH-10) and the City Health Office. What is being done right now by the Moreno administration is intensified preemptive, preventive measures aimed at keeping everyone in Cagayan de Oro City, including those heading to the city’s hospitals for treatment of ailments other than respiratory illnesses that could lead to COVID-19, such as dialysis and even therapy. **************** Hence the temporary closure of malls and non-essential businesses such as movie theaters which can draw large crowds who are at risk of infection, a 10 pm to 5 a.m curfew and opening of essential services like grocery stores, supermarkets, hospitals, clinics, convenience stores and restaurants and food outlets that offer takeout in order to encourage people to stay at home. Yes, the main point of these intensive, preemptive, preventive measures as Mayor Moreno kept repeating in his daily press briefings at the mayor’s conference room, is to compel people to stay at home and avoid for the meantime unnecessary activities that would expose them to the very real risk of COVID-19 infection. At the same time, Mayor Moreno displayed not only calm, but courage guided by wisdom in implementing a calibrated response to the global health threat of COVID-19 by allowing people to still enter and leave the city provided they are screened and processed at the checkpoints, seaports and Laguindingan airport and declared safe by health personnel to enter or stop over at the city’s borders. Moreno’s wisdom and grace under pressure was prominently displayed in his decision to allow a boatload of passengers who were turned away at a seaport in Nasipit town, Agusan del Norte province to dock at the Macabalan port where they were immediately examined and declared safe by health workers. About 491 passengers of MV St. Francis Xavier were declared safe for travel to eastern Mindanao where they were headed to after coming from Manila, where most of the COVID-19 cases had originated.  The passengers rode in buses and were advised to undergo a two-week home quarantine just to be on the safe side. **************** In deciding to allow the Ro-Ro vessel to dock at Macabalan port, Mayor Moreno cited humanitarian grounds as basis and this incident merely showed to everyone not only Mayor Moreno’s wisdom but his character as both public official and as a person.  Any other public official of lesser or zero substance would have panicked and turned these passengers away. When news broke out about this incident, one idiot in social media who I will not name for his sake questioned why the passengers were not quarantined inside the vessel for two weeks.  This idiot apparently expected both the city government and the vessel owner to feed and maintain all 491 passengers during their imposed quarantine. In fact, I can only describe as idiotic the demand by not a few Cagayan de Oro City based  netizens for a citywide lockdown which Mayor Moreno pointed out time and again would make life difficult for outsiders seeking medical assistance in the city. The demand is driven mostly by their expectation that government will bring essentials like food right at their doorsteps. Last time I checked, Cagayan de Oro City Hall allocated a P7.5 billion budget for 2020 and owing to these extraordinary times, the city government is well-advised to use the funds judiciously including the allocation of calamity funds.  It won’t surprise me if that P7.5 billion budget would be depleted in a few months if the city does decide to bring essentials to the city’s entire 750,000 population. But enough of the critics who don’t have the complete picture of the city’s situation in relation to the countrywide quarantine.  Suffice it to say that these critics should produce incontrovertible, unimpeachable evidence to justify a citywide lockdown and not just their laughably pathetic alibi that Cagayan de Oro City should impose a lockdown because other local governments are doing it.

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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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