THE PHILIPPINES is now faced with a greater challenge amid the Enhanced Community Quarantine [ECQ] in Luzon following the increasing cases and deaths due to coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
On the first days of the community quarantine, we met few people in Baguio City and its neighboring town, La Trinidad, Benguet.
Trading of highland vegetables from Benguet to key markets outside the Cordillera region continue as the big trading centers - La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post (LTVTP) Inc. and Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center remain open.
Ricky Simon, a vegetable transporter estimates at least eight tons of vegetables from LTVTP are shipped to the Pampanga area.
Considering the traffic, travel time is set as early as 1 am, considering the many checkpoints and pass through temperature screening stations following the ECQ.
“Sobrang traffic, aalis kami ng madaling araw, ala una makakarating kami dito alas onse na andami naming inikot na daan para maka lusot pagdating sa Sison ma - checkup, doon kami na traffic. Dapat alas sais ng umaga nandito kami naabutan alas onse ng tanghali,” Simon said.
Traders said there are no fast lanes to prioritize delivery of perishable vegetables from the province to the different key markets in the country.
Augusta Balanoy of the LTVTP Inc. said a total of 1.5 million kilograms of vegetables from trading post goes to different markets in the country while 600,000 to 700,000 kilograms goes to Divisoria.
Also in La Trinidad, landlords are waiving the March rental of their tenants in consideration of the health crisis.
Social media posts from landlords in Benguet’s capital town went viral announcing the non-collection of rental for a month due to the Covid–19 worldwide pandemic, Keith Damogo and Daisy Laus from Barangay Pico announced the move to waive rental fees for both their boarders and tenants.
Damogo said it is a way to help tenants who are challenged by the situation following the threat of Covid-19 hoping others would follow suit.
On March 18, Emmanuel Ayban from Barangay Balili also waived his tenants’ one-month rental following the move of the two good-hearted building owners.
Public utilities also followed suit after the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) extended bill payment deadlines while the La Trinidad Water District waived penalties for late payments.
The Municipal Council of La Trinidad on March 17 also passed a resolution requesting local public utility services, financial institutions, property lessors and landlords to suspend the surcharges of overdue bills and to extend the payment deadlines of the same until May 2020.
The resolution was made in light of the socio-economic challenges of the ECQ imposed under proclamation 929 and 922 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte who declared a state of public health emergency for the entire country.
Personnel of the General Services Offices at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) work to provide primary needs for health workers at the frontlines.
On Wednesday, the group was able to distribute a total of 108 ‘do-it-yourself’ face shields and 20 protective gowns for the protection of health workers.
With the challenges in supply, people are getting creative with their own versions of personal protective equipment as pharmacies have declared supply of masks and alcohol out of stock.
Among the six public and private hospitals in the city, BGHMC is the largest government hospital in the Cordillera region.
Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, regional director of Department Health - Cordillera disclosed the Covid – 19 global situation logs close to 200,000 recorded cases as of March 18 with 7,807 deaths.
On the national level, there are 217cases reported in the Philippines with 17 deaths.
As of March 18 there is a lone positive case of Covid-19 in Cordillera. The patient is now in stable condition while 61 are considered as persons under investigation (PUI).
The 40 have already been discharged while 21 are currently admitted awaiting confirmatory laboratory results.
The regional director urged all stakeholders to stay at home and isolate themselves when they have flu and respiratory illness symptoms.
“If you have a history of travel do not mingle and observe social distancing,” she added.
One of the most affected sectors during this ECQ are vendors like 74 – year – old Carolina Perez Gica, who sells candies at the Governor Pack Road bus terminal.
She lives inside a comfort room which has she has transformed into a home for almost a year as she sells water, tissue paper, and candies.
Gica is aware of the current health crisis and keeps a face mask and uses a bottle of alcohol to disinfect herself.
Inside her comfort room home, on the other side of the toilet bowl, is her bed. Flattened boxes serve as her bedsheet while the adjoining wall serves as a dining area where her lunch boxes are placed. On the other wall, bottles of mineral water for sale are displayed.
Whenever she eats, she always covers the toilet bowl.
Gica says, eventually, she plans to go back to Cebu where her siblings reside, as soon as her documents are in place.
“Noong Pebrero pa sana ako uuwi, ngayon, nawala iyong mga ID ko, nilalakad ko muna. Pag nabuo ko na, uwi na ako,” she said.
Gica said she has two children who both reside in Manila with their respective families, her husband, a taxi driver, died a decade ago and since then, she has been living in the city.
It was her dream to live in the city.
“Gusto ko dito, malamig, tahimik, kahit di ka sumakay puwede lakarin,” she narrates.
She assures that she will go back home in Cebu when the Covid – 19 crisis settles down.
“Hintayin ko na lang, pagkatapos iyan, (Covid-19) magtiis muna ako dito,” she added.
On the first day of the Luzon wide community quarantine, mass transportation was suspended with few public utility vehicles tapped to serve commuters.
In the central business district, mobile food delivery services have been made available to cater to the basic necessities of the community.
For La Trinidad, checkpoints have been put in place to monitor the entry and exit of private vehicles and vegetable trucks.
Those entering the town required to fill up a health declaration form from the local government unit as a precautionary measure.