Aguilar: Then and now of Bacolod’s Covid war

Against the current

THE quarantine downgrade in Bacolod City recently is a very welcomed thing. In the urban poor community where I’m presently immersed, more and more breadwinners are back in their work as establishments start to reopen. The atmosphere in my little community has greatly changed too with more smiles and better dispositions evident in each household at plain view. For one, there are lesser fights among couples while backyard livelihoods have also picked up sales.

Cutting across villages, local economies have started to propel. Even with the strict health protocols in place, the public are able to adapt with the new normal as families start new beginnings. Indeed we are bouncing back.

The quarantine downgrade also marks a shift in paradigm, from a state of fear and panic over Covid-19 to a more cautious but confident Bacolodnons. It would not be wrong to say that the public are now acting with reason.

While the pandemic paralyzed our community on its onset, we now learned to strike a balance between health risks and economic sustainability.

Politics and governance have also evolved into more proactive approaches replicating success stories of local governments that managed the impact of the pandemic well.

Yet there are still lessons that Bacolod has to learn to sustain our bouncing back. For one, data collection and making decisions based on actual data can save so much resources as well as control damage more than one-size-fits-all solution in disaster mitigation.

The City also has to factor in public sentiments when it comes to extending social services. The LGU has been on a hot seat for apparent lack of timely social support to the most marginalized, and in this case almost everyone since the pandemic has indeed hit us all hard. Understandably, the LGU was not prepared as no government ever was against this pandemic.

Another thing, in times of crisis, timing is everything and so seeming delays and poor implementation of programs have political costs. And so effective communication should have been and should still be given a premium.

Bacolod’s Covid war approach was characterized by two main directions; one, the containment of the spread of the virus; two, the reopening of the local economy to survive. In fairness, the LGU was able to source out funds from the national and international organizations. The local business sector has been cooperative as well with government programs so much so that it also absorbed some of the damage brought about by the pandemic on behalf of the laborers.

Our experience as a whole has created a different kind of collaboration between private and government agencies, something that would surely propel a kind of progress that has never been experienced before.

But now is not the time to relax as there is still no vaccine within reach. At the rate of how our local government handled the pandemic from the time it started, there was obviously little room for reflection as issues overwhelmed actual management and administration. A second wave can still be a dark reality if state affairs are not well managed.

Some of the reasons for quick response failures were purely politics. There seems to be a very polarized community in the city which resulted in a tug of war in the implementation of programs and its compliance from the general public. For this, the public has its share of the blame too, in fact a significant share at that.

This is where governance plays a more crucial role. Instead of responding to the crisis, it should evolve into creating a more comprehensive program for prevention rather than just damage control.


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