Stating they wanted to be prepared in case of a possible Covid-19 emergency, the City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution calling for a declaration of a “State of Public Health Emergency” in Puerto Princesa city.

While there is no single case of coronavirus local contamination in the city, the declaration came alongside the allocation of P75 million for the city government response to the virus.

“It is better to prepare now rather than to only act when the disease is already here,” Councilor Victor Oliveros, majority floor leader, said.

The City Health Office (CHO) stated in a budget plan they intend to purchase medical supplies which includes thermal scanners, medical suits, isolation beds, and sanitation kits (alcohol, masks, sanitizers) among others.

The rest of the fund is to be allocated for an information education campaign (IEC), disinfection and sanitation of some public areas, and other logistical and mobilization need that may arise.

Representative Gil Acosta, during the Congressional hearing on Wednesday, pointed out that the local government units (LGU) are not allowed to tap into the “calamity fund” despite the declaration of State of Public Health Emergency.

Regina Cantillo, chief of City Budget Office (CBO), clarified however that the P75 million funding will not be withdrawn from the city’s calamity fund but will be coming from city government savings.

“The fund [came from] disaster risk reduction management trust fund [item under the unused savings]. It’s already appropriated and we just allocated and set-up a fund for emergency purposes,” Cantillo said.

“Hindi ito from calamity fund. The impending emergency, out of that context, draws the budget from general disaster risk reduction management fund,” Oliveros added.

Alert Level

Romalyn Racho, regional head of Health Education and Promotion Unit of DOH, said that Palawan is on “Code Blue”, encouraging the LGUs to instigate actions on strengthened prevention and preparedness.

“If we are talking about COVID-19 per se, tayo [national] ay Code Red Sublevel 1 na. But for our province, since wala pa tayong naitatalang kaso ng local transmission, tayo ay nasa Code Blue, meaning kailangang maghanda ng lahat in case tayo ay pumasok sa Red,” she said.

No Cancellation of Classes

School classes will not be cancelled, as recommended by schools divisions superintendent Dr. Servillano A. Arzaga.

However, a “massive” information education campaign (IEC), to be headed by the City Health Office (CHO), will be in place for the remaining two weeks of the school year.

Based on the school calendar published earlier by the Department of Education (DepEd), classes are expected to end on April 3.

Graduation ceremonies may still push through, depending on the decision of each school.

However, the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum will be on “lockdown” and will not be allowed to be utilized for public use.

“We do not want public gatherings since we want to limit social contact. We decided to lockdown the Coliseum because we do not want it to be contributory on possible spreading of the virus,” Oliveros added.

Travel Ban for City Officials

A memorandum order will also be issued prohibiting all city officials from travelling outside the city.

“Kung hindi naman kina-kailangan, pagbabawalan na ang mga empleyado na pumunta ng Maynila o ibang lugar,” he added.

Additional thermal scanners and sanitizers will also be purchased as part of the precautionary measures in fighting against the disease.

Possible Sanctions

A certain courier service, who was earlier tasked to deliver specimen for confirmatory tests in Manila, was alleged to have refused in carrying any further samples coming from the city.

Dr. Mario Baquilod, regional director of DOH, said that he will coordinate with the provincial DOH officials in finding other courier service to bring in future samples.

The city government, on the other hand, took a strong stand and said that they are ready to impose heavy sanction against the courier service in case it does not comply with the need for the public emergency.

“Titingnan natin kung pwede natin silang ipasara. This is a matter of public concern,” Oliveros added.

Puerto Princesa City currently has one PUI recorded on Monday, following three other cases which were subsequently discharged after the negative result received from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.