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Investigative report on the impact of Covid 19 in urban, rural areas

July 8, 2020

(2nd of a series) LGUs urge folks to plant for food EASTERN Misamis Oriental--“Intensifying farm production as top anti-Covid initiative is one efficient way of mitigating the impact of this present crisis, “ Usec Ben Ranque suggested when interviewed at his residence in barangay Portulin, Medina town. Ranque said the households should plant vegetables and fruits in their backyards to sustain their food needs when they have no money to buy such in the market after losing their income due to Covid health protocols. “Even I myself and my family are now trying to grow vegetables. Also, Talisayan mayor Rommel Maslog said he has urged his constituents to plant for food. “My administration is now looking for vacant government lands in the barangays for hard-up families and possible Balik-Probinsya beneficiaries for them to engage in farming to sustain their immediate need for food.” In Gingoog City, mayor Eric Caniosa and vice Mayor Peter Unabia are now mapping out projects to support fruit and vegetable growers. “We interviewed some sellers of fruits and vegetables here and asked them where their stuff came from, and told us that they grow it themselves.  We have rich farm soils in the hinterlands of this city  and we are now preparing projects to establish farms for Indigenous communities. The City is ready to contract loans with outside sources for these farm projects. This would facilitate cheap sources of food. BUTUAN CITY In another interview, this city, Agusan del Norte, governor Dale Corvera, who is also the Regional IATF chairman told the reportorial team  his province is lucky as it is hugely an agriculture producer. We have sufficient sources of farm produce and we dont need to buy aggie staples from outside. We even have the capacity to support other provinces for their food needs such as rice, vegetables and fruits, aquatic products.” Corvera added that  his province’s self-sufficiency has sustained them throught-out the Covid period. This was the reason why we are Covid-free since at the very beginning when the President declared the National Emergency, we immediately implemented the health protocols. Butuanon folks interviewed by the team said that the success of their fight against Covid 19 was due largely to unity in the political arena and in the private sector.  One vendor commented that because their political leaders were united, there was no problem in the distribution of government aid from the national down to the local government entities. The province of  Agusan del Norte and the City of Butuan have implemented efficient policies in containing the virus spread.  The City Administrator of Butuan City Reynante Desiata said that the City has supported the affected sectors, with rice and food stuff. “Initially we spent P20 million for the 1st wave of our assistance to the  constituents, followed with another P70 million of food packs for the 2nd wave. We have established a sufficient number of isolation facilities through-out the province. As early as March, we have already implemented health protocols in almost all towns and barangays of the province. We have facilities at the Butuan Medical Center. As of this writing, we still have no severe cases of Covid in the province but we have already put up 90 percent of the isolation facilities. We already have  PCR machines. By the 1st week of July we shall have completed the installation of our quarantine facilities. Our business sector is severely affected.” He said their policies were always dependent on the guidelines imposed by the national IATF.  Presently we have gone  back to easier restrictions under the MGCQ requirements. What we have restricted are the movements of the general populace.  We have to balance the economy and health safeguards for our people.” The people of Butuan have already adjusted to the situation. They already know what has to be done in this time of crisis because we have oriented them from time to time. We still implement the curfew hours allowed. On the Balik Probinsya program, our only request is that the pre-entry activities should be properly calibrated. Ang nangyari those who were tested positive we immediately placed them in isolation areas. Ang nangyari ngayon, hindi na natin pwedeng ipagsama ang positive at newly arrived kaya we established additional quarantine facilities and asked their families to quarantine them at their own homes. On mass gatherings like fiesta and church masses, we asked the households to have simple celebrations. And we discourage them to accept fiesta visitors, he added. The most affected sectors are those from the MSMS or medium & small business establishments. The City is now intensifying its infra projects so that we can accomodate the affected for jobs in the construction industries.” We are thankful that with MGCQ status some of  our workers can go back to their livelihood. In interviews with other sectors in Butuan City and Agusan del Norte The team observed that Hotels and other establishments have already accommodated 50 percent of their capacity.  However, the operators said they are only employing skeletal workers to man their establishments because there is little business occuring. In interviews with security guards and tricycle drivers, most interviewees decry the lack of support from their former employers. Security guards in establishments said they were only given a few days of work in a week to support their.  The trisikad drivers said that the social distancing protocols reduced their income to almost 30 percent. SURIGAO BLUES. At the Lipata Ferry Terminal in Surigao City, the Team observed very few transport activities. Observably, there were few delivery trucks loaded with agri products and vegetables for Samar and Leyte food traders. Most of the food establishments at the said terminal said that they lost about 80 percent of their income when Covid 19 health protocols were imposed. “Ang hirap po sir, wala na kaming mapagkukunan ng makain kasi wala kaming benta dito sa pier ng Lipata dahil sa social distancing,” said one of the food vendors.   Samar-Leyte Reaching San Ricardo pier in Leyte, the Team had some interactions with the food vendors. “Sir,  when the Covid 19 health protocols were imposed wala nang kumakain sa eatery namin” said one of the eatery owners. “Karamihan sa niluluto namin na hindi nabenta, nasasayang. Sana yong gobyerno natin ay hindi naging stricto sa mga lugar na wala namang Covid case. Kasi natatakot ang mga biyahero na huminto at kumain  sa aming eatery dahil sa mga anunsyo ng taga gobyerno. The local officials also in Leyte and Samar provinces and towns also commended the national government of its fast action in implementing the Social Amelioration Funds distribution. However,  one of the interviewees commented that “it was not enough to support their displaced workers  in terms of food sustenance,” Due to this, a barangay official who requested not to be identified, said the use of the 2015 listing was an injustice for those who are really in need for this year’s support. One resident of Samar said, it was an excuse for some LGU officials to commit graft and corruption acts. In Allen, Samar, San Joaquino barangay, a kagawad said that because their LGU has no sufficient funds for the support to locally-stranded-individuals who were quarantined, they requested the family of the PUI to extend support. “We also asked donations from the private sector to give donations.,” she said. She added that the mayor of Allen also gave support to those in the quarantine centers including masks and other needs of the frontliners. She said their local initiative included installing isolation facilities in schools. :”To date we have 20 rooms ready for such,” said Kag. Norris  C. Amigo. --With reports from Gerry Lee Gorit, The PhilStar correspondent, and Richard dela Cruz, Eagle Broadcasting Corp.

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(Photo) Stranded battleship

July 8, 2020

Shows a battleship anchored at the wharf of Subic Bay believed to have been stranded for almost 3 months now due to Covid 19 restrictions July 5, 2020, Photo by Gerry Lee Gorit

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Investigative report on the Impact of Covid 19 in urban, rural areas

July 8, 2020

(3rd of a series) Businesses undersiege SUBIC Bay--Before Covid-19 came, this was a bustling city according to Dr. Oscar Soriano, a retired PNP officer. He briefed the reportorial team that business slowed down for Hanjin, a huge ship-building  company, several automotive surplus firms that catered to customers from Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon, duty-free shops and micro-entrepreneurs. “Tourism industries drew zero income when GCQ was imposed. It was only on July 1, when this city was given a modified GCQ that some businesses slowly re-opened,” he added. Walking along the Subic Bay boulevard, here, showed a seemingly ghost town.  Restaurants are opened but only a few have dine-in customers. Nearby duty-free shops were also a picture of emptiness. An owner commented that he opened only two days ago and his business suffered a slump. “I have no recourse but to cut-down costs and re-hired only  a skeletal force,” he sighed. BANKING SERVICES: Banks entertained a few clients and are only open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Just like in Butuan City, the president of the Bankers Club,  Lou Jean Dadong, Branch Head of Business Bank, said that during ECQ days they have reduced their banking hours and opened only 3 times a week to mitigate the risks of possible Covid-19 contamination. He added that when MGCQ was implemented in their City last week, it was business as usual, but only a few clients came to their banks to either make deposits or payments.   “To help our clients in this time of crisis, we offered deferred payments of their loans. But their monthly amortizations from March to May, when GCQ was implemented, must be paid by June in one time only. However, there are no  fixed regulations on these. It would be according to each bank’s policy” he added. He said that his bank communicate with their clients on how to make payments in staggard basis to help them cope with their business operation’s liquidity. He added that most banks has allowed deferred payments as a matter of individual policy. Dadong also commented that in his personal observation, the most affected sector by Covid 19 are the small businesses and entrepreneurs, to the point of closing their operations.  However, he added, the big companies are not poised to declare bankruptcy because they still have back-up resources when ECQ was implemented. There are 28 banks operating inButuan City and Agusan Norte. Dadong said that in this time of Covid crisis, on loan approvals they only select big businesses who have good records. “Existing clients who have good handling of their accounts may be granted loan approvals, especially those providing essential products and services,” he added. On the overall situation in Butuan City, Dadong said small entrepreneurs are not afraid anymore of Covid 19. Tricycle drivers, food vendors come out into the streets to sell their wares, to eke out a living. “They are not afraid anymore of Covid threats to their health, rather they are afraid of hunger,” added Dadong. However, he said the government has sufficiently provided for the food needs of these most affected sectors. He praised the governance policy of the City and Provincial officials in this time of crisis. “They have effectively addressed the problems of food and containment of Covid 19, and they have provided sufficient isolation and quarantine facilities. TOURISM OPERATORS DECRY LACK OF  GOV’T MITIGATION EFFORTS Iba, Zambales – This province is considered the Tourism Capital of the Philippines according to Godyson Dolfo, professor of Northern Zambales College and past president of the Rotary Club, and also an officer of the Zambales Chamber of Commerce. “There are more than 200 tourism establishment operators in this province. and tourism is the biggest earner for our economy.  When Covid-19 restrictions were imposed we were the recipient of the biggest setback of our economy,” he added. Mrs. Vilma Mirador, owner of Palmera Tourist Resort in this town, asked the Reportorial Team to help their association of more than 200 resorts, in seeking government intervention for them to return to normal or “new normal” operation.  She said they were forced to reduce their workers to a skeletal force.  Opening, just the other day, Ms. Mirador said several tourist schedules in her place and in other tourist destinations in the province were cancelled. “In this MCGQ times, hotels and restaurants were allowed to reopen with only 50% accommodation of their establishments. But the resorts are not included. We feel this is an injustice to us. We can also impose health protocols in our establishments as what the hotels and restaurants do.  What is the difference between us and the hotels and restaurants?  We also offer dine-in and take out food orders.  We also impose social distancing in our rooms for visitors just like in hotels? But why are we not allowed to  re-open as what they  allow in hotels and restaurants? If the guests want to swim in our swimming pools and beach fronts, we will strictly impose social distancing and other protocols,” stated Ms. Mirador. She added that the tourist resort industry in the province has incurred huge losses in terms of income forcing some to close and declare bankruftcy. “What we  pity are our workers who lost their jobs because we cannot afford to pay their salaries anymore with the shutdowns. And neither have we received government support such as the CAMP program of the Dept of Labor & Employment,” she said. --With reports from Gerry Lee Gorit, The PhilStar correspondent, and Richard dela Cruz, Eagle Broadcasting Corp.

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Political opposition wants Misor to spend 2019 Budget

July 8, 2020

MISAMIS Oriental--The political opposition led by Vice Governor Jeremy Pelaez, of Misamis Oriental, wanted the 2019 Budget of the province to be expended retroactively, Provincial Attorney Neil Pacana said Monday. Pacana, however, said that the proposal to “retroactively” disburse the 2019 Budget is no longer possible because there is already an approved 2020 Budget effective January 2020. The regional trial court here issued a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the disbursement of the province’s approved 2020 Budget Ordinance effective June 29, 2020 until July 19, 2020. In their motion for the issuance of the TRO, Pelaez and three other opposition provincial board members asked the court to stop the disbursement of the approved 2020 Budget Ordinance on the ground that the ordinance was not “posted” in conspicuous places to make it effective. The RTC Branch 24 here the TRO, sending the provincial government in limbo at the time when the provincial government, is fighting against the spread of COVID-19 pandemic here.  Pelaez and his group argued that the provincial government could still spend, “retroactively,” the 2019 approved Budget so that the employees could still have their salaries and wages. The provincial attorney, however, said that spending the 2019 Budget “retroactively” is no longer possible because the approved 2020 Budget has become effective since January 2020. “Unless the court declares that the Ordinance approving the 2020 Budget of Misamis Oriental isunconstitutional, the provincial board would convene to approve an ordinance for the provincial government to retroactively spend the 2019 Budget,” Pacana said. Pacana also questioned the propriety of approving the TRO without the provincial government given a chance to answer the petition as part of the court procedure. “It is quite strange that the court granted the TRO in less than 24-hour when it was filed in the afternoon of June 26 (a Friday) without the provincial government knowing that about the case,” Pacana said.  He said that the approving Judge Vincent F.B. Rosales also “inhibited” from hearing the motion to lift the TRO because Rosales alleged that he was only a “pairing judge.” It was learned that the regular presiding judge of Branch 24 was on leave.

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Prov’l lawyers ask court to lift TRO vs. 2020 budget

July 8, 2020

MISAMIS Oriental--The provincial attorney’s office of Misamis Oriental urged the regional trial court here to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the provincial government from spending its approved 2020 Budget, the provincial attorney said Tuesday. Neil Pacana, the provincial attorney for Misamis Oriental, said that the case was assigned at the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 39 during a raffle Monday. He said that the urgent motion for the lifting of the TRO was necessary to allow the provincial government of Misamis Oriental to continue the unhampered delivery of the basic services. The political opposition led by Vice Governor Jeremy Pelaez and three other minority members of the provincial board filed the TRO to prohibit the provincial government from implementing and disbursing the approved 2020 Budget on June 26, 2020. In their complaint, Pelaez and his group alleged that the approved 2020 Budget was implemented without complying the posting requirement to make it effective. Provincial Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano described the suspension of the 2020 Budget as “anti-people” and “ill-advised” at a time when the province is fighting the possible spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

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BREAKING: Covid-19 confirmed cases in the Philippines hit 50,000 mark

July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines - The deadly coronavirus disease (covid-19) in the Philippines has started to wreck havoc with its infection reaching 2,539 new cases in just one day (July 8), bringing the total number of infected Filipinos to 50,359. The Department of Health, in its update yesterday, reported that of the total confirmed cases 1,922 cases were fresh. These are the results released to patients within the three day period. Those considered by the health department as late cases were over four days old results, which also totalled to 617. The Philippines death toll, according to DOH has reached 1,314 already, but there were also 202 patients who fought hard with the virus and were able to recover, also bringing the country's total recovery to 12,588. The DOH daily briefer also reported that 883 of the new cases came from Metro Manila and 369 new cases were also recorded in Central Visayas.   Johns Hopkins University said the Philippines is second fast-rising country in Southeast Asia, with the highest number of infected patients of the deadly coronavirus disease, next to Indonesia. Based on Johns Hopkins' tally of the total number of cases in each country, the Philippines is at 50,359 total cases beating Oman which has 50,207 cases. Last week the Philippines also beat Bolivia, Panama, Portugal and Singapore. The health experts in the country has predicted that by August the figure in the country's total number of cases will double, raising fears that more deaths will definitely rise. Meanwhile, the top 10 countries which got the unstoppable onslaught of the deadly virus include: United States; 2,998,177 confirmed positive; Brazil, 1,668,589; India, 742,417; Russia, 699,749; Peru, 309,278; Chile, 301,019; United Kingdom, 287,880; Mexico, 268,008; Spain, 252,130; and Iran, 248,379 confirmed cases as of July 8, 2020.    

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