THE barangays remain to be the "main battleground," as Bacolod City courses its way through the sudden spike of Covid-19 cases over the last two weeks, said Mayor Evelio Leonardia during a virtual meeting with city and barangay officials Tuesday evening, April 6.

"You know the situation today, and I am sure you will act correspondingly. We will continue to ask for your support and cooperation," said Leonardia.

Leading the meeting aside from Leonardia were Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, chair of the city's Inter-Agency Task Force and chair of Task Force Disiplina (TFD); City Administrator Em Ang, executive director of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC); Councilor Renecito Novero, chair of the Quarantine Centers Action Team; and Councilor Lady Gles Pallen, president of the Liga ng mga Barangay.

Joining them were Ma. Maredith Joy Madayag, director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-Bacolod; Colonel Manuel Placido, director of the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO); and captains of the 61 barangays.

With Bacolod once again seeing an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, Leonardia said barangay officials must again do their part in the fight against the virus.

"This is really a barangay operation matter. We are not going to say that we are back to square one because there's no doubt about it-we have already put in place many systems and infrastructures we did not have at the start of this pandemic. Rather, what is apparent now is that we are back in the danger zone," Leonardia said.

The virtual meeting discussed pertinent matters relating to Covid-19 surge containment measures and other issues that required the active participation of the barangays.

Aside from Bacolod, the number of Covid-19 cases also increased in the National Capital Region (NCR), the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, and the cities of Cebu and Davao.

The mayor said highly urbanized cities like Bacolod are "vulnerable" in terms of the viral spread due to their population density.

"Let's all think about what Secretary Carlito Galvez said to me, that with the increase of cases in Manila, there is always a tendency that this will spill over to the highly urbanized cities," Leonardia said.

Prior to the open forum, the mayor presented a report on the current Covid-19 status of Bacolod and the containment efforts taken since the onset of the pandemic.

Leonardia also discussed the plans on vaccine availment and rollout, vaccination education campaign, factors contributing to the surge of cases in the city, and Covid-19 surge control and containment measures that should be implemented at the grassroots level.

In the open forum, barangay officials and personnel of BCPO and members of TFD agreed to coordinate with each other.

"The police, Task Force Disiplina, and tanods will have to organize a composite monitoring team per barangay to be clustered under each BAC-Up Station. In the meantime, even at least one TFD member per barangay should already accompany the tanods when they go around to monitor the proper wearing of face masks and shields," Pallen said.

For his part, Placido said: "The single objective is to stop the spread of Covid-19. The fight is in the barangay level. For me, I always tell the police to always persuade and encourage the citizens to comply with the protocols and avoid, as much as possible, using force."

Placido continued: "Unlike other places, we can still manage the crisis. If we recovered from the high cases last year, we can still do it again. The real work here is with the barangay officials since they are the ones who are always visible and near to the people."

Madayag, meanwhile, reminded the barangay officials to help in the implementation of the "BIDA ang may Disiplina" program.

"We have to strengthen the task forces at the barangay. This will help in the implementation of our program for the observation of minimum health protocols," Madayag said.

Taking notice of some establishments in the barangays serving liquor beyond allowed hours, Familiaran said: "We will be one to suffer for this if we don't cooperate. Worse is, we will be the ones to take the blame for this. We have to cooperate with each other."

Familiaran, quoting retired Maj. General Mel Feliciano who helped set up the Bacolod Emergency Operations Center (EOC), added that the fight against COVID-19 is "at the barangay level since you are the frontliners."

Responding to a concern raised by one punong barangay pertaining to the conduct of religious gatherings in small enclosed spaces, Novero said this can be settled by talking directly to the religious leaders.

"They are very respectful people, our pastors. Just tell them frankly and gently and they will understand," Novero said.

Echoing the call for barangay proactiveness, Novero also said: "If our guard in the barangay level is not enough, Covid will spread in our community. We have to be strict in the implementation of our health protocols in the barangays."

Also present in the meeting were OIC-City Health Officer Dr. Edwin Miraflor, EOC deputies for medical Dr. Chris Sorongon and Dr. Anna Ma. Laarni Pornan, who also heads the CDRRMO, and Executive Assistants Ernesto Pineda and Teresa Manalili. (PR)