File photo from the Palawan Provincial Information Office (PIO)

The Department of Health (DOH) continues to face a daunting challenge in Palawan as it strives to make the Philippines malaria-free by 2030, due to the unique geographical situation of the province.

During a forum on Tuesday, Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire, the officer-in-charge of the health department, emphasized that the challenge in eradicating malaria in the province stems from its “geographic situation”, which is a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

She explained that although other provinces have made advancements, Palawan remains an outlier. While 66 provinces in the country have achieved the status of being malaria-free and 15 have recorded no indigenous cases, the province presents a notably difficult situation.

“Marami pa ring masusukal na lugar sa Palawan, mga island areas din. Syempre very rich pa rin yong kanilang forestry—doon kasi nagta-thrive ang mga lamok na nagdadala ng malaria (There are still many densely vegetated areas in Palawan, including island regions. Of course, their forestry remains very rich, as it is a thriving habitat for mosquitoes that carry malaria),” she said.

Vergeire said that during her visit, she had a conversation with Palawan Governor Victorino Dennis Socrates and shared several strategies that could be implemented collaboratively by the DOH and the provincial government.

Two of these is to provide additional sprayers and treated nets in affected areas.

“Ang pinaka importante pa ri syempre, ay ang mga  tao—aware sila what malaria is, and how to get it. At saka aware din sila doon sa mga ongoing transmission doon sa kanilang komunidad para mas maiwasan ano. Sana by 2027 ay magkaroon tayo ng zero case sa Palawan (The most important thing, of course, is for the people to be aware of what malaria is and how it can be acquired. They should also be aware of the ongoing transmission in their communities to prevent further spread. Hopefully, by 2027, we can achieve zero cases in Palawan),” she said.

Concerted efforts to eradicate malaria in Palawan by 2027 are being carried out in partnership with the local government, Pilipinas Shell, and the University of the Philippines.

In December 2022, Ynna Lauron-Doblado, the downstream program manager of the Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), said that based on their records, the number of incidents in the province has considerably decreased since 1999, going from 53,451 to 2,218 as of September of the same year.

The death toll had also dropped from 103 in 1999 to two by 2021. There has been no death this year.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.