By November 24, 2020Opinion, Punchline

Town/city as COVID-19 epicenter

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


THE reaction of Sison’s local government to our last week’s headline: “Sison is new epicenter of COVID-19 cases” brought to light important lessons in effectively managing the pandemic in communities. (Due to space constraints, we can only post the full text of the letter in our online edition this week. But read our story by Eva Visperas – “Sison LGU denies town is new epicenter of COVID-19,”.

The facts and situations narrated by the local government to belie the “grim situation” in the town should be helpful in making other towns identify with the challenges in their respective communities, though under different circumstances.  It was in this context and purpose that we made Sison’s situation our headline story – to make communities aware that COVID-19 does not only hit urban cities like Dagupan but in small towns like Sison as well, particularly where industrial activities operate.

To Sison’s local government’s credit, instead of being simply defensively argumentative, it did not deny the number of new cases but instead gave a clarification of its situation that gave Pangasinenses a ray of hope that, indeed, COVID-19 contagion can be arrested.

Kudos to the members of the local IATF and town officials! In spite of the number of cases, Sison is definitely in safe, responsible hands.

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PANGASINAN OPEN FOR BUSINESS. The Pangasinan PNP is completely justified to “adjust” its policy in the maintenance of border control checkpoints. Our borders must change posture and signal that Pangasinan is already open for business under new normal conditions.   

Clearly guided by IATF, the leniency at the borders at this time helps induce more trading and economic activities in the province by allowing travelers, visitors, relatives etc. easy access to the province by simply showing a health certificate, and to show proof that all travelers are equipped with face masks and shields.

At the very least, border checkpoints should compel motorists and their passengers to wear their face masks and shields when passing through our borders if only to remind them of strict enforcement of the two protocols in the province… that some cities and towns impose fines.

(The Rosales police can even do fund raising with a charitable organization by selling face masks and face shields – at reasonable market prices – to motorists and passengers who are without these so they can pass through. No one needs to be arrested. Indigent passengers clearly without means may be provided free masks and shields by the charitable group).

The truth, and in fact, the stricter control should be focused on entry of hogs that could infect our local industry amid the spread of African Swine Fever in the country, not on persons.

We cannot think of effectively restarting local economy by restricting access of people to places and establishments in our towns and cities. There must be freer movement of persons and goods without losing focus on the enforcement of health and safety protocols! 

It is now up to local governments, from the barangay level to town/city level, to adopt “close guarding” policy of both residents and visitors to comply especially with the prescribed health protocol. (Safety protocol may be more difficult to monitor since people are encouraged to move around freely). 

To continue the momentum in the campaign vs COVID-19, the bigger burden now lies on local governments, not on checkpoints. They must seek to enforce the two protocols strictly where they can 24/7!

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LASHING OUT AT VP LENI. There’s been a lot of talk about PRRD’s 20-minute lashing of VP Leni Robredo in reaction to the endless taunting of the opposition with its “#NasaanAngPangulo” tag in social media. Did VP Leni deserve it? It surely didn’t help her cause when her own daughter posted the same taunt.

If only VP Leni had been more of a team-builder for the government, and less outspoken in being critical as an oppositionist, she would have found herself at the frontline leading efforts in the relief operations of the government.Unfortunately for her, her handlers cannot allow her to be an active participant in governance except to be true to her role as mouthpiece of the opposition. Sayang. So, they only have themselves to blame for the lashing she got.

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On a personal note:

  1. To motorists without RFIDS: Local residents can get their RFIDs for TPLEX at the toll entry office in Brgy Carmen. Unfortunately, there is a long queue of vehicles at the SCTEX entry point in Tarlac waiting to have their SCTEX-NLEX RFID installed. One has a better chance of getting it faster at the booth that can be found upon exiting NLEX.
  2. To mayors, bank managers, kapitans: Given the financial difficulties being experienced by our residents, I suggest that local governments begin to discuss new security measures with banks and establishments not only to keep crime syndicates at bay but to help enforcement of health and safety protocols. Bank security guards should be made to stand by ATM machines as additional protection for their customers, roaming security detail should be assigned in parking lots, police patrol cars should be constantly roaming, twin tanod-bike patrols should be roaming in barangays 24/7.
  3. To Mayor Brian Lim: Dagupan City’s colorful lights at the two bridges, though known for a “source” of kickbacks for city hall occupants for the light construction and installation, do help set the mood for that old Christmasy spirit. To boost it further, why not close the bridges to vehicles and open exclusively to pedestrians (with masks and face shields) from 9 p.m. until 11:30 midnight. Reroute all vehicular traffic to JdeV Highway.  Food stalls should be allowed to operate on the side with roaming POSO members closely monitoring compliance of visitors and vendors with the health protocol and sanitation ordinance. Risky? Yes, if health protocol is not enforced strictly. (The city should earn from nightly vending fees for permits paid to city hall, not to the ‘barkada’).
  4. To enterprising mayors: LGUS should also consider scheduled Christmas bazars in barangays on rotational basis. It’d be no different from the scheduled mobile barangay market held in many towns today.
  5. To Col. Red Maranan: Unmanned tents in the middle of highways originally used for checkpoints should already be dismantled because these already pose hazards that can cause serious vehicular accidents. The detailed checkpoint personnel pulled out from their assignment would be of better use posted in unmarked places along highways to boost the ‘Oplan Balik Disiplina sa Kalsada’ and enforce the traffic rules on tricycles and motorcycles strictly. Signboards are useless without strict enforcement.

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