Mayor Lucilo Bayron as he address the city, Sunday morning regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from the pre-recorded video posted by City Information Office official Facebook page.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron on Easter Sunday addressed the local residents on measures being undertaken by the city government on its continuous efforts to fight the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a pre-recorded video message aired Sunday, Bayron pointed out that Puerto Princesa City remained COVID-free after the lone COVID-positive patient left the province during the last commercial flight on March 17, and laid down city plans for its “prevention and containment”.

“Kailangang proteksyunan ang lungsod sa COVID-19 infection. Ang tanging laban natin dito ay prevention, at sakaling makapasok, wag ng kumalat through community transmission dahil mahihirapan tayo dahil hindi sapat ang ating hospitals, medical facilities, medical equipment at dami ng health care workers,” he said.

Designated Quarantine Areas

The city government has identified several quarantine facilities throughout the city proper which will be used for the isolation of suspected COVID-carriers.

“Nag-arrange tayo sa Asturias Hotel ng 30 rooms, na maaari pang dagdagan, para sa ating medical frontliners. We also converted [Skylight] Hotel for persons under investigation (PUI) na sasailalim sa home quarantine para efficient ang management sa kanila,” he said.

The city recorded a total of 10 PUIs, one of whom was admitted in a hospital while the other nine remained under home quarantine, as of the latest bulletin issued at 6 p.m. on Saturday (April 11) by the City Information Office (CIO).

Returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW) would also be housed in Legend Palawan, a premiere hotel in the city; while the local fishermen, who will be rescued from the other provinces, would stay at Pandan Island in Honda Bay during their required 14-day quarantine.

“Na-arrange ang Legend Hotel para sa mga uuwing OFW na sasailalim sa required 14-day quarantine. Gagamitin din ang Pandan Island as quarantine area para sa uuwing mangingisda galing sa ibang probinsya,” he added.

Meals, transportation, and the other needs by the persons who will be isolated in designated quarantine areas would also be provided.

He also asked the public to remain patient and follow the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) protocols such as social distancing, wearing of face masks, and frequent hand washing.

“Tayo ay mga sosyal na nilalang at sanay makihalubilo sa bawat isa, pero kailangan nating baguhin ang ating pag-uugali. Manatilinsa bahay, bagamat mahirap at nakakainip, kailangan baguhin natin ang ating community behavior para hindi tayo matulad sa ibang bansa na mabilis ang pagkalat ng virus,” he added.

Medical Frontliners and Equipment

Bayron also called the attention of medical graduates to apply as frontliners on the “COVID-19 war” as the City planned to “scale up” its “aggressive outbreak response”.

He said that the City Health Office (CHO) was recently funded to increase its manpower as it strengthens “contact tracing” and COVID-watch monitoring.

“We are hiring additional nurses, ito ay funded na at kailangan nilang mag-apply sa CHO,” he said.

“Committed and hard working” health care workers would also be beefed up with medical supplies including additional purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.

“We will have aggressive mass testing, palalakasin ang contact tracing, and scale up medical equipment. Bibili tayo ng additional 12 ventilators dahil sa ngayon mayroon lamang tayong 6 ventilators available sa lungsod,” he added.

Aggressive Mass Testing

The City is planning to purchase some 2,000 rapid test kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start its mass testing for suspected COVID-patients.

“Nakausap ko si [regional health director] Dr. Baquilod na tulungan tayong bumili ng 2,000 pieces FDA-approved rapid test kits,” Bayron said.

Palawan governor Jose Alvarez subsequently pledged the use of his private light plane to help in sending specimen for the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) confirmatory test to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Metro Manila.

“One of my aircrafts will be ferrying swab samples para mabilis ang resulta,” Alvarez told Palawan News.

The island province remained to wait for eight test results from RITM since last week.

Power to the Barangays

Additional aids from the government were pegged to start this week as the P248 million Bayanihan Grant fund was recently released by the national government to Puerto Princesa.

This, after it previously distributed some 4,700 sacks of rice to Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) families; and P94.5 million cash assistance to some 63,000 households in the city.

However, the additional assistance would only include relief goods based on the guidelines set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“Hopefully, this week, ‘yong P248 million na binigay ng pamahalaang nasyunal ay makapagsimula na. Hindi pinapayagan ang financial assistance,” Bayron said.

The City was set to purchase some 90,000 sacks of rice and canned goods, which would be distributed by the barangay officials.

“Our preference is National Food Authority (NFA) rice, pero kung hindi kaya, pipilitin nating bumili ng commercial rice. Naghahanap na din tayo ng mabibilhan ng canned goods para kasama sa rice assistance,” he said.

Fresh produce from local farmers and fishermen would also be purchased and distributed to help the marginalized communities in their “economic” status during the ECQ period.

The City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) and the barangay officials were tasked to screen the list of “deserving households” who were expected to receive aid from the government.

“Ang CSWD ay magva-validate ng listahan mula sa mga barangay, kasama na rin ang listahan ng mga pamilya sa 4Ps sa iva-validate. Patuloy nating tutulungan ang mga totoong nangangailangan,” Bayron added.

Bayron reiterated to the “overworked” barangay officials to continue with their public service amid the detractors after a certain barangay in the city was recently announced to have allegedly violated the guidelines set by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“Nasa inyo ang main responsibility sa pagpapatupad ng ECQ measures at distribution. Wag magpapa-apekto sa batikos at gawin ang tungkulin ayon sa tama at nararapat,” he said.

Reopening of Puerto Princesa

The City Planning Office (CPO) was asked to prepare a “COVID-recovery plan” after the anticipated ECQ lifting on May 1.

Border patrol and city checkpoints would be continuously enforced to make sure that the local residents follow social distancing, wearing of face masks, and regulated travel.

However, commercial flights may remain temporarily suspended as other provinces face the COVID-19 outbreak.

“No commercial flights habang nagbabadya ang outbreak sa ibang lugar. Ang City Planning ay naghahanda ng COVID-19 recovery plan para sa reopening ng Puerto Princesa na hinihintay ng mga mamayan. Magbubukas ulit ang ating economy sa tamang panahon,” Bayron added.