Last March 16, the entire Luzon was placed on lockdown due to the growing number of cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines under the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The enhanced community quarantine had barred millions of people staying in Luzon to travel outside the island—supposedly for just a month—for almost three months since it has been continuing to be extended due to the rising pandemic of the disease. Moreover, the lockdown has caused the temporary suspension of work and closure of non-essential businesses in the entire Luzon.
These developments resulted in for most of the Filipinos to stop working and suffer from various disruptions—financial, livelihood, psychosocial, and even mental.
But these have pushed and inspired some of the local government units to conduct their own initiatives to extend their help to its constituents in whatever they can.
In our generation, the coronavirus had brought as a lot of unexpected and tragic situations happening simultaneously that we somehow could never imagine—rising death tolls around the world, global economic downturn, hunger, and political conflict.
In an online interview with Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, he shared that the key to handle pressure during this pandemic time is the delegation of responsibilities.
“This pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic, is very challenging. Sometimes, it felt like drowning, every single day everyone has been wanting an answer or a direction from you,” shared Gatchalian.
In these trying times, Filipinos will immediately depend and ask for help with its local leaders who they tho
In this article, the Manila Standard identifies some of the initiatives of three of the big cities in Metro Manila—Pasig City, Makati City, and Valenzuela City—and see how they handle this COVID-19 situation.
Due to the disruptions brought by the lockdown to the Filipinos, the national government had granted at least 18 million families emergency subsidies under its social amelioration program during the first tranche.
Under the program, the qualified recipients would receive cash assistance ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 (depending on the "prevailing regional minimum wage rates) per the months of April and June.
With the insufficient budget of the national government to provide for all the families affected by the lockdown, on May 5, the City Government of Pasig had announced that it would start its Supplemental SAP—a localized version of national's SAP which a cash aid amounting to PHP8,000 given to around 160,000 families who were not given the national government's cash assistance.
"Pasig Supplemental SAP will start in from small barangays and will be distributed house-to-house," said Mayor Vico Sotto on his Facebook live.
Meanwhile, Makati City Mayor Abigail Binay announced that the city will give its registered voters, holders of the Makatizen, and Yellow health cards will be receiving financial assistance amounting to PHP5,000 under its “Maka-Tulong 5k for 500k+: PHP5,000 sa bawat Makatizen” program via electronic money transfer app, GCash.
Among the most affected of COVID-19 pandemic are the elderly—vulnerable both economically and physically. But for Valenzuela City, “no one gets left behind—especially not its senior citizens.”
As per writing, in Valenzuela City, a total of 3,209 senior citizens already received their Social Pension (SocPen) led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The assistance aims to provide every senior citizen a budget for their daily and medical needs.
Recently, Sotto posted on his social media accounts his hope to provide education for Pasig students despite of the quarantine. He said that the local government is looking for funds that will provide students personal learning gadgets they can use in their studies whether if it is a face-to-face or virtual class.
But if it is the latter, he shared that they were “preparing better internet connections at the barangay level.”
When Metro Manila was placed to enhanced community quarantine, local government units were told to provide relief goods to those families affected by the lockdown.
"Immediately the instruction from the national government was to make sure you feed your people so we have to respond. What do we have to do? Immediately we ordered the goods, then repacked, and then think of ways to feed and get it to the people," explained Gatchalian.
However, despite the relief goods being distributed in every family, there were times that they still needed to come to public places like market and grocery stores to buy their food. With that, Valenzuela City conducted its own its “Market on Wheels” inspired by Pasig City's Mobile Palengke that are placed in areas far from marketplaces. These are mobile markets that bring fresh vegetables, meat, and basic goods to prevent Valenzuelanos from going to wet markets to maintain social distancing.
The City of Pasig, that leads this initiative, launch Mobile Palengke on March 24 to encourage its constituents to stay home rather than going to Pasig Mega Market.
But for those Pasigueños who still want to buy at Pasig Mega Market, they can opt to Community Mart app and buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat.
More than its roving stores, Sotto also distributed food coupons to Pasigueño students that can be used in Pasig Mega Market, Mobile Palengke, and selected public markets.
Valenzuela City first conducted its intensive mass testing to its constituents in April. It had partnered with The Medical City and Detoxicare Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory Inc. which helped them in testing Valenzuelanos. With swab tests being submitted everyday, the LGU becomes more aware of the accurate number of cases in the city helping them to be prepared.
"Actually, the number of positives [COVID-19 cases] are growing in the case of Valenzuela because we are testing more. With this capacity, we know that there will be an increase but we are not going to be alarmed because number one, it is better to know. Number two, so that we can act and we can put them in a central isolation unit or we put them in a hospital. We are getting a clear picture, but is there a reason to be alarmed? No, because the LGU is prepared together with our hospital partners," explained Gatchalian.
Sotto also executed "mass screening" in a barangay recently using rapid antibody test kits from Project ARK initiative. It also conducted rapid testing for its government employees since the city hall will resume full operations starting June 1.
With the lifting of the modified enhanced community quarantine to general community quarantine of the busiest region in the country, Metro Manila, private businesses are expected to reopen and millions of Filipinos are also expected to resume working. Most Filipino workers depend on commuting and public transportations. However, strict protocols are still executed Luzon-wide, which require PUVs to impose social distancing.
Without tricycles, jeepneys, buses, or even FXs, how can Filipinos go to their respective destinations?
In Pasig City, through an app Sakay.ph, Pasigueños can look for the location of “Libreng Sakay” bus. Without the unavailability of public transportations, the city introduced its "Libreng Sakay" that picks and drops off commuters in specific routes.
In this pandemic time, our respective local government unit is trying its best to provide or meet our needs. The LGU cannot do it alone, us, the constituents, must do our part.
"We hope that you continue to be our partner in these times and you can expect that in the next coming days, we will launch programs that will help the Pamilyang Valenzuelano. Again, I would like to direct you all to follow the health protocols, policies, and national laws, and ordinances imposed in the City of Valenzuela. Always stay safe and remain vigilant at all times—practice social distancing, proper
hand hygiene and wearing of face masks," told Gatchalian.
May we do our part so that we can survive this—altogether. May we follow the implemented protocols—whether if it's national or local—to help "flatten the curve."