The COVID-19 crisis has given a new meaning to community resilience, as the fight to contain the deadly virus continues to be fought on the ground, challenging local capacities to respond effectively.

Medical laboratories are racing to develop a vaccine that hopefully shall decisively end the pandemic. That, or populations will get a the point of herd immunity and stop the virus on its tracks. Meanwhile, the actual battles are being fought everyday in every nook and cranny of each country big and small. The mantra is to flatten the curve, try and slow down the spread of the virus to the point that will allow the local health systems in place to manage the crisis effectively and buy time.

The Philippines currently lags behind its ASEAN neighbors in pushing back the pandemic. Its rate of infection remains the highest in the region, arguably a testament to the weak capacity of its national health system. The country’s National Capital Region is the current epicenter of the disease, with other densely populated areas in parts of the country also reeling from the virus’ onslaught. In these places, the role of local governments in ensuring the effectiveness of interventions including primarily social distancing are crucial.

The effective implementation of quarantine and community lockdowns rests mainly on the shoulders of administratively independent local government units, particularly the towns and cities down to the barangays. Among the many challenges they face are the implementation of social distancing practices and the marshaling of resources to aid the needy by providing their basic needs for survival.

The current crisis is showing that effective leadership and best practices in local governance can help flatten the curve. Strong leadership rallies people around the common goal. Conversely, bad leadership is to be blamed for cases where communities are unable to get the support that they need to cope with the crisis.

If there is one important lesson that can already be learned from the current COVID-19 crisis, it is that local communities must now learn to forge their own capacities to deal with any crisis and achieve resilience. It is a tall order that cant be ignored under a post-crisis new normal.