Marawi, Lanao Sur LGUs to develop testing labs

June 4, 2020

ILIGAN CITY ---- The local government unit (LGU) of Marawi City turned-over on Friday (May 29) a two million peso check (P2M) as the city government share to set up a P20-M biomolecular testing laboratory inside the premises of Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) here. Earlier on May 14, Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong, Jr. confirmed that the provincial government and the Marawi city governments would develop a a testing laboratory as part of the efforts of the two LGUs in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.  Included in the allocated amounts is the purchase of a testing machine.  Adiong said they are targeting to operate the laboratory starting this month.  “The provincial government shared P10-M from our Bayanihan Grant Fund with the balance of the expenses to be shared by the LGU Marawi and the APMC,” Adiong said in an interview.  The provincial government of Lanao del Sur received P117-M, an amount equivalent to 50% of its one-month internal revenue allotment (IRA) while Marawi City received P50-M.  ‘Negative of antibodies’  Aside from the P2-M check for the testing laboratory, Gandamra also turned-over to the City Health Office 3,000 rapid diagnostic testing kits to be used for the testing of city hall employees and frontliners manning checkpoints.  Mayor Majul Gandamra was amongthe first batch to get tested on Friday.  “Nagpa-test din ako (I also get tested) and it’s negative. Other results will be released on Monday (June 1),” Gandamra said referring to being non-reactive or negative of antibodies.  “Although tayo po ay zero-record (ng COVID case) based doon sa report ng ating health sector, pero hindi po tayo nagkumpiyansa. Kailangan po na ma-check natin ang ating mga frontliners nang sa ganoon ay maiwasan natin na magkaroon ng transmission ng virus (sa Marawi),” Gandamra said.  (Although we are zero-record (of COVID case) based on the report of our health sector but we are not complacent. We need to check our frontliners so that we can avoid the transmission of the virus (in Marawi)  Gandamra said the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur will continue observing all the protocols established under the community quarantine guidelines even if the present level of the community quarantine in Marawi will be lifted already.  “In the coming days, magkakaroon uli tayo ng shifting. Maaring magkakaroon ng modification ang ating general community quarantine or maari ring magkakaroon tayo ng lifting of the community quarantine. But this time we will be observing the new normal which is ang ating nakagawian ay magbabago,” Gandamra said.  (We will be having a shift. We might modify our general community quarantine or we might lifting it, but this time we will be observing the new normal.)  Gandamra said the city council of Marawi is passing city ordinances to support all the policies that will address the fight against the transmission of the coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

BARMM essential health services continue despite COVID-19

June 2, 2020

The Ministry of Health-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MOH-BARMM), with support from the U.S. government, has been leading regional and local efforts to ease the impact of COVID-19 and protect its constituents.  As of May 31, 2020, BARMM has registered 10 probable cases, 301 suspects, 27 positive COVID-19 cases, and four confirmed deaths. On April 13, 2020, MOH-BARMM released a memorandum, reiterating the Department of Health’s Department Circular No. 2020 – 0167 for the continuous provision of essential health services across the country in the time of COVID-19.  The MOH-BARMM memorandum instructed public health facilities in the region to remain open to provide non-COVID-19 health services. To augment the health facilities’ operating expenses amid the COVID-19 crisis, the MOH-BARMM allocated a total of PhP 10 million to provincial and city health offices as well as some hospitals under the ministry.  Additionally, to support frontline health workers implementation of the DOH and BARMM memorandum, all rural health units will receive a monthly allocation of PhP 20,000 for their operating expenses.  Meanwhile, the Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) will also receive financial assistance from the ministry. MOH-BARMM already distributed a total of PhP 2,599,000 to 2,599 BHWs, the first batch to receive the financial support. “The regional government is committed to respond to the challenges brought by COVID-19 to our health workers and health systems in BARMM,” said Dr. Saffrulah Dipatuan, BARMM Health Minister. The policy and financial support from the BARMM government facilitates the continuous delivery of family planning (FP), maternal and child health services, and adolescent and youth reproductive health in the region.  Services are delivered in keeping with the community quarantine and physical distancing measures. “We are happy to note that immunization, pre-and post-natal checkups, FP counseling, distribution of FP commodities, and the provision of modern FP birth-spacing methods and many other health services continue across the Bangsamoro region,” said Dipatuan. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its BARMMHealth project, partners with MOH-BARMM as well as provincial, city, and municipal health offices to fortify the quality of health services in the region.  Since June 2019, USAID’s BARMMHealth project has trained over 600 health workers and religious leaders to improve access to quality health services among underserved communities.   The USAID-trained health workers have devised ways to coordinate among their respective health facilities and implement innovative solutions to serve their clients, such as house-to-house visits, 'FP Services on Wheels', and bandilyo-- a Cebuano word that means 'to make known' or 'announce loudly.' Bryn Sakagawa, USAID/Philippines Office of Health Director, commends the DOH and MOH-BARMM for their commitment to unhampered provision of health services. "Inspite of COVID-19, these timely government actions are helping mothers and their families to access voluntary family planning, and essential maternal and child health services.”  Sakagawa also lauded the continuity of care and treatment of tuberculosis patients who are among those at-risk for COVID-19.  “The U.S. government is a proud partner of DOH and BARMM in addressing the needs of vulnerable population groups,” said Sakagawa.  The U.S. government has committed PhP 785 million ($15.5 million) to assist the Philippines in its COVID-19 response. 

No commemoration of Marawi siege due to COVID pandemic

May 28, 2020

ILIGAN CITY ----- Unlike the past two years, the Marawi siege will not push through because of the coronavirus pandemic.  In the last two years, the local government units of Marawi and Lanao del Sur and Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) have led the commemoration of the siege with various activities. National government officials attended the events bringing with them assistance for the internally displaced persons.  In fact, the Marawi Week of Peace is officially celebrated starting a week before May 23.  This year, only 25 soldiers attended the wreath laying at 8:00AM, including the two flag bearers and a priest, with their face masks on.  This year, COVID-19 crisis made the third year commemoration of Marawi siege different.  Marawi City is still under general community quarantine which greatly limits people’s freedom of movement. Mass gatherings are still prohibited.  Last year, the wreath laying ceremony took about 30 minutes including  prayers for the dead but this year, it only took the Army soldiers of 103rd Infantry Brigade 10 minutes to lay wreath and flowers, and say prayers at the ‘Heroes Wall’ inside the brigade headquarters in Kampo Ranao.  Colonel Jose Maria Cuerpo, 103rd Brigade commander, led the troops as they recalled “the sacrifices of the fallen heroes who fought hard to liberate Marawi City from the clutches of the violent extremists Dawlah Islamiyah - Maute Group who attempted to establish a caliphate in the country”.  Cuerpo was the deputy brigade commander during the siege.  "Despite this novel coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19), we have not and will never forget the heroism displayed by our soldiers during the 2017 Marawi siege. I call on the patriotic spirit of all Meranaos to do their part and help maintain the peace we are enjoying today. We were one in this fight, one in the fight against the terror threat in the province," Cuerpo said.  Some 168 soldiers, police officers and civilians who died in the fight against terrorists during the 153 days of the Marawi Siege.  "Unity is a critical consideration in these trying times as manifested during the Marawi siege where the people and the security sector joined hands in fighting the common enemy. Peace and development can be attained. Nothing is impossible if there is cooperation, understanding, and discipline among us," Cuerpo stressed.  "Let the Marawi siege be a reminder to every one of the terror and tragedy caused by the terrorists. Rest assured that your Haribon Brigade will do its best and exert all effort to prevent such tragedy to reoccur, and to promote peace and development in the City of Marawi and the province of Lanao del Sur," he added.  Last year, a banquet was served after the wreath laying but this year, the soldiers immediately dispersed.  “We went back to the office and proceed with our regular office works,” Cuerpo said.  

IDPs of Marawi Siege saved by face masks

May 27, 2020

MARAWI CITY ----- Three years ago, they were displaced by the Marawi siege. They were vendors at Padian area in Marawi City before the siege. Though community is not oneof the city's 24 barangays (villages) and hardly affected by the five-month war, these 32 women fled Barangay Timbangalan since it is adjacent to the village where heavy fighting was happening. They were displaced and had to seek safe refuge in some parts of Lanao del Sur and neighboring provinces in Northern Mindanao. Some of them even stayed for a while in an evacuation center before finding a more comfortable place for their family. In March 2018, residents of the non-affected areas, including Barangay Timbangalan, were allowed to return to their homes. But life has not been the same for them. They struggled financially because their businesses were not operating like before. “We were told by our barangay chairman to organize ourselves into a cooperative so we could join a seminar for a livelihood. There were three groups who get listed for a seminar with the MARADECA, one group to train for farming, one for cooking and we are for dressmaking,” said Tahira Aragasi, the manager and master cutter of the group. A non-government organization the MARADECA (Maranao People Development Center, Inc.) organizes livelihood trainings and peace and conflict mapping analysis. Aragasi’s group, dubbed the Timbangalan Women’s Association, started with 20 members. Today, the association has over 30 members . Although many are already knowledgeable in dressmaking, they still accept members who needed a livelihood even if she has to start from zero. “May mga mananahi na talaga sa amin simula pa noong bago ang giyera sa Marawi, pero mayroon rin mga gusto pang matuto,” Aragasi said. (Most of us were dressmakers before before the war in Marawi, but still many more want to learn) The grant The group started a dressmaking cooperative selling traditional and artistic Muslim dresses through a P200,000( USD 3,941 ) grant from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the partner agency of MARADECA. This helped them to access technical trainings, buy sewing machines and fabrics to help kick-start their businesses. Demand for their dresses have start to steadily increase, with orders coming in from tourists staying at the local hotel helping them gain a significant profit. They specialize in ceremonial dresses for the enthronement of sultans and  princesses each of which sell for as much as P4,000-7,000 pesos. Still others make dresses for rent. The business has helped the women earn on their own, feel empowered, and improve the status of the whole household. Anisah Dima, 60, is a solo parent with four children, one of whom is already an adult. She has been a widow for 20 years. Of the four , only one was left alive, the three others died of various sicknesses when they were  small. Anisah joined the cooperative months after it started. Before she joined the cooperative as sewer, she was farming a small parcel of land some kilometers away from Timbangalan. “I only knew a little about sewing because I am more a farmer. Now that I am older, I asked them if I can join the group because my body can no longer endure  farming. She (Aragasi) taught me how to sew,” Dima said in Filipino. During the pandemic When the coronavirus pandemic hit the Philippines, the women’s livelihoods were greatly affected. Due to social distancing and the ‘no mass gathering’ protocols, the women were unable to keep their business like  before. The village that they live in is also quite isolated and they were unable to access the face masks and hand sanitizers they needed.  While they received cash aid from the government’s social amelioration program (SAP), it was not enough for most of the families with five to seven members . With a leftover inventory of  textiles that MARADECA gave them, the women decided to instead start stitching face masks. “May mga tulong na natanggap pero hindi sapat kasi kailangan pang bumili ng gatas at diaper ng anak. Lalo na at Ramadan, kailangan ng maraming pagkain,” Aragasi noted. (The food packs we received were not enough because we still have to buy other needs like milk and diapers for infants and we need more food for the Ramadan.) Orders coming The masks they made have been certified by the Department of Health (DOH).  Aragasi said the first batch of facemasks she made was for personal use. She posted it on social media and as a locally trusted business, orders for their masks started coming in. The first order they received was from the Army’s Civil Military Battalion who ordered 200 pieces which was distributed to their personnel. “Then the LGUs (local government units) in Lanao del Sur ordered for their frontliners. It was a big help for us to survive during the pandemic,” Aragasi said. MARADECA MARADECA’s chief executive officer Salic Ibrahim said Timbangalan is one of the eight barangays in Marawi City they support. When they consulted the beneficiaries on what kind of livelihood they preferred to engage in, MARADECA was already preparing them with trainings. “Before we give them projects, they should be trainef on how to sustain it. They must be prepared especially in terms of business to change their mindsets to be able to sustain their business,” Ibrahim said. MARADECA also trained youth volunteers who helped their beneficiaries in their various businesses as business consultants. But because of the pandemic, Ibrahim said he is apprehensive that the income they have before the community quarantine was spent for their daily needs. “Mao nay among gikabalak-an kay naa sa ilaha ang ilang income, Dili sila maka lihok og maayo, wala silay income, daghan nila ang wala naapil sa SAP, maong tan-aw namo nagastos nila ang ilang pondo. Hinaut nga duna pa mi maapsan,” Ibarahim said. (We are worried now because with movements curtailed they cannot earn, many of them are not beneficiaries of SAP, so we expect they spent their earnings, I hope we can still save their livelihood.)

Meranaws gather in mosque for Eid prayers amid pandemic

May 27, 2020

BALOI, LANAO DEL NORTE ----- Despite the IATF's prevailing 'no mass gathering policy' due to the coronavirus pandemic, some 150 Meranaws still gathered in a mosque in Baloi, Lanao del Norte for the Eidl Fitr prayer at 6am on Sunday (May 24).  They were teenagers, middle-aged men and women who brought their children and infants with them, senior citizens and even persons with disability.  They flocked to the mosque along a national highway at 6AM for the Eid al-Fitr prayers.  No one was seen wearing facemasks, and because of the limited space inside the mosque, social distancing was not observed. Neither was there soap for handwashing, alcohol or disinfectant at the entrance for the worhsippers to use before going inside.  Hadji Sirad Abdul-asis, Imam of Baloi mosque, said they still gathered for the prayer that ends the one-month Ramadan of Muslim despite the guideline because they are not afraid of the virus.  Abdul-asis said they are aware of the order of the Grand Mufti on the suspension of the congregational prayers during the Ramadan and the Eid'l Fitr but they still opted to pursue the grand prayer because there has so far been no reported COVID-19 case in Baloi.  "Nasubukan namin sa loob ng dalawang buwan, walang kahit isang namatay sa lugar namin dito sa Baloi. Ibig sabihin, ang nakakaalam lang sa mga nangyari ay si Allah SWT," Abdul-asis said.  (We survived for two months that no one died of the virus here in Baloi. That means only Allah SWT knows of what is happening.)  However he noted that they reminded the sick faithful to just stay at home.  "Dati pa naman, hindi na namin pinapayagan ang mga may sakit na pumunta pa sa mosque," Abdul-asis added.  (Even before, we did not allow sick people to enter the mosque.)  Mayor Hanifa Ali in a phone interview said the local government unit of Baloi will invite on Monday (May 25) the chairperson of the barangay where the mosque is located.  "We will investigate, we will call the attention of the barangay captain because we have an executive order reiterating the guidelines of the National Inter-Agency Task Force prohibiting any forms of social gathering," Ali said.

TES grants released for over 11,000 beneficiaries in BARMM private universities

May 18, 2020

COTABATO CITY --- Around 11,446 students in private higher education institutions (PHEI) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao shall be granted by the Commission on Higher Education and the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) with Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) stipends.  An initial 120,000 students from 404 PHEIs nationwide will get their TES. Among this, 25 schools will be coming from the Bangsamoro region.  CHED is instructing these private schools to immediately coordinate with their grantees on the best way to distribute TES while following their respective local government quarantine rules.  The TES is a government grants-in-aid program made possible through Republic Act 10931 that gives P60,000 per school year to financially needy students in private schools and those studying in private schools in municipalities and cities without public universities. The TES is used by students to pay their tuition and miscellaneous fees and other education expenses. It is the flagship social development program of the Duterte administration on higher education.  MBHTE Minister Iqbal emphasized that these stipends will greatly support and assist the PHEIs and its Bangsamoro students especially as the nation copes with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.#


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