DAVAO ORIENTAL – To sustain the long-term fight against the coronavirus disease, the Provincial Task Force on COVID-19 is now mobilizing and empowering the barangay local government units in terms of managing COVID-19 efforts in their communities.
Through the local initiative dubbed as “No Losses in Diseases: Kabarangay Kontra COVID-19” under Executive Order No. 31 series of 2020, the barangays will now take charge of the screening and surveillance, monitoring, contact tracing, isolation, and referral along with other efforts except for swab testing which will remain under the jurisdiction of the municipal and city local government units.
Provincial Task Force on COVID-19 Action Officer Dr. Reden Bersaldo, who in the last two weeks visited all the ten municipalities of the province to orient the barangay officials and workers of their new roles, stressed the crucial part that the barangays play in the local response against COVID-19.
In his talks with the barangay officials, functionaries, and other stakeholders, Dr. Bersaldo stressed how critical it is to empower the barangays, especially now that the screening at the provincial borders have been stopped coupled with the current easing of the quarantine restrictions.
Furthermore, health workers are now slowly shifting their attention back to other health programs that have been set aside in the last four months due to the pandemic. “Our health workers are also exhausted and they cannot go on guarding the borders forever, particularly because we don’t know when this pandemic will end or when the vaccine will be developed,” he said.
Community Integration and Mobilization
Cascading the program down to each LGU, Dr. Bersaldo explained its strategic pillars that cover the structure, system, capability-building, and financing.
Putting a premium on community integration and mobilization, the NLD Kabarangay Kontra COVID-19 will be headed by the Punong Barangay. Working under him are five teams who will take charge of the screening and surveillance, monitoring and reporting, contact tracing, isolation, and the referral. Members under these teams are also workers in the barangay.
“I am expecting that the barangays will not find it difficult to adopt these strategies since they have already been doing it for months since the start of our fight against COVID-19. The only difference now is that they are more organized and their roles are more defined,” he said, adding that “handing them down some of the responsibilities does not mean we are leaving them behind to fend for themselves.”
“To make all this effective, we have to capacitate them. That’s why we give them the direction,” said Dr. Bersaldo.
Dr. Bersaldo said that the COVID-19 management will now become part of the regular health programs of the province like the routine prenatal checkups and immunization, among others. “That way our other programs will not be halted,” said Dr. Bersaldo.
Under the program, the barangays are also required to ensure the availability of the Barangay Isolation Units, COVID Infodesk especially for barangays without phone signal, and a transport vehicle, among other responsibilities.
Moreover, as part of strengthening surveillance, the barangays are allowed to set up barangay checkpoints as long as they are not placed along the national highway. These checkpoints will only be allowed to do temperature checks and have people entering the barangay to fill out log-in forms.
For its part, the provincial government vowed to provide the required logistics such as Personal Protective Equipment, RT-PCR swab test kits, and the necessary technical assistance and trainings. While training for the contact-tracing has already been done, the Task Force sets the conduct of training on surveillance.
Moreover, in terms of a budget appropriation for the proposed allowances for the barangay workers, the provincial government through the Sangguniang Panlalawigan commits to exploring the possibilities of providing funds. However, Dr. Bersaldo said that while setting up the system for the program does not need a huge budget, financial constraints are not a hindrance to deliver what is required.
In the next few days, the Provincial Task Force on COVID-19 will intensify its engagement with the LGUs to ensure its proper implementation.
Dr. Bersaldo reiterated the need to capacitate the barangay local government units in safeguarding their communities considering that they are basically at the frontlines. “This is our way of protecting our people,” he said, adding that the program’s ultimate aim is to keep the province free from local transmission. By Provincial Information Office/ Photos by Chopin Siblos