(Photos courtesy of Levi Evangelista)

An isolation area has been designated by the Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF) within the penal farm in anticipation of a possible scenario of the virus spreading.

ICF information officer CTO II Levi Evangelista said Monday that an 18-room isolation area will cater to ICF employees, persons deprived of liberty (PDL) and community members from barangays of Iwahig, Sta. Lucia, Montible, and Inagawan where the four sub-colonies were located.

He added that the ICF’s action was in line with a directive coming from the national headquarters of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

“The single rooms were furnished with the basic requirements needed by the suspected patient. The ICF management immediately acted on the readiness of the IPPF as per the directive from the NHQ,” he said.

The isolation area will also be used for employees, PDLs, and community members who would have similar symptoms such as fever, cough and deep breathing for strict monitoring.

Evangelista said that the emergency quick response team (QRT) of ICF is equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) through the coordination of the acting ICF hospital-in-charge Dr. Francisco Caabay to Department of Health (DOH) Palawan chief Dr. Peter Curameng.

He added that DOH Palawan has provided them with PPE and two gallons of chemical disinfectant. The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) also provided the ICF with information and education materials regarding COVID-19 and face shields for medical frontliners.

“Yong aming superintendent ay nag-create ng quick response team to look deeper if meron case at nagpapakita ng mga ganong sintomas. Sila kaagad yong a-action or designated persons na appropriate na mag-analyze don,” he said.

“Si IPPF ay mahigpit ang awareness sa COVID para hindi makapasok. It’s a no-no for us at bukod dyan ay nagka-conduct kami ng mga health awareness program para ma-inform yong inmates kung ano ang patungkol sa COVID at ano ang nangyayari sa labas,” Evangelista added.

He said that if it happens that they will have positive cases from the compound of the prison, the ICF has already closely coordinated with the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP).

“May coordination na kami, ang aming nurses ay coordinated yan sa ONP. For the meantime, yong aming QRT ang a-action dyan at a-analyze ng patient. Sila kasi yong lead agency kaya iri-refer namin para kung anong instruction nila para sa amin,” he said.

Evangelista admitted that the prison management has a struggle in implementing the social distancing advise of Department of Health with its 2,806 population of PDLs in four sub-colonies.

He said that the ICF is investing more in informing the PDLs about the virus and implementing preventive measures to ensure that COVID-19 will not spread in the penal farm.

“Mahihirapan kami don sa directive ng DOH sa social distancing that’s why ang ginagawa na lang namin dito ay preventive measures kasi we understand naman sa lahat ng pasilidad even sa national headquarters ay 50,000 na,” he said.

He said that management has reiterated the need for handwashing to PDLs as a preventive measure against the virus.

Evangelista said that ICF has provided bath soaps and assured that they have a backup of potable water supply while there is a crisis in supply experienced in the city.

Evangelista added further that the ICF management has implemented the 12-hour work of employees wherein 279 officials will be divided into two shifts to work on the needed tasks.

Aside from checking the temperature of employees entering the main gate, it has also started the misting and putting wheel baths for vehicles of employees. He said that the prison camps of four sub-colonies both minimum and maximum camps and even the offices were already disinfected.

“With the preventive measure that we are undertaking, we believe na hindi talaga makakapasok (yong COVID-19) sa ICF. Kahit mga sasakyan ay may wheel bath,” he said.

After the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the ICF has temporarily suspended the visiting privileges of PDLs and started to issue ICF pass for the employees’ dependents.

“With the preventive measure that we are undertaking, we believe na hindi talaga makakapasok (yong COVID-19) sa ICF. Kahit mga sasakyan ay may wheel bath,” he said.

He said that the ICF has an undergoing mask production to be distributed for PDLs.

“Para sa lahat ng PDLs namin let’s say yong mga lalabas ng camp kasi syempre may mga work din yan. Kailangan na naka-mask sila. Tingin ng aming superintendent ay lahat ay magkaroon ng face mask that’s why kaming personnel ay nag-donate ng tela para gawin na improvised face masks,” he said.

Evangelista said that the ICF management is positive that the entire colony will be COVID free. He assured the relatives of PDLs that the latter are safe inside the ICF sub-colonies.

“We are optimistic na hanggang matapos itong pandemic disease ay magiging COVID free and IPPF because we have undertaken all the precautionary measures para ma-prevent ang pagpasok nito,” he said.

“Huwag sila mag-alala sapagka’t safe ang ating mga inmate even kaming mga employee bago pumasok sa facility ng Iwahig ay nagdi-disinfect. Sa main gate pa lang namin ay mahigpit ang seguridad,” he added.