Duterte signs new law on opening of classes

>> Friday, July 31, 2020


President Duterte has signed a law allowing the Executive Department to adjust opening of classes, saying this will give schools the much-needed flexibility to move the start of the school year upon the declaration of a state of calamity or emergency like the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The flexibility to move the opening of classes beyond August is crucial considering the uncertainties and threats posed by this pandemic,” Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said in a statement.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, thanked the President for the timely signing of the measure that would allow a safe reopening of classes as it is necessary to still pursue education even in the midst of a pandemic.
“Last April, nearly a third or 26 out of 81 provinces were free from COVID-19. By July 15, only four have remained Covid-19-free,” the senator noted.
“Even if face-to-face classes are deferred but Covid-19 cases continue to rise, the distribution of self-learning modules could still compromise the safety of our learners, teachers, parents, guardians, and other school personnel,” he said.
“With this new law, however, the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Dept. of Education, is empowered to move the start of the school year, upon the declaration of a state of calamity,” the lawmaker said.
Sen. Francis Tolentino also lauded the President’s move as he sees the necessity of adjusting the school opening from Aug. 24 to a later date as the DepEd fell short in the preparation.
“There is really still no certainty as to when the country will be able to effectively control this contagion and this will certainly put students at risk of contracting the disease,” Tolentino said in a separate statement.
He also echoed Gatchalian’s belief it would be more prudent to defer the start of classes in order to give the government and schools more time to effectively implement safety measures to secure the health of the students and to craft online learning programs and other non-face to face learning systems.


Benguet congressional bet resigns from PhilHealth over ‘corruption’

Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – It seems the stink of corruption emanating from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation is starting to reach high heavens.
This made a congressional candidate of this province with two other PhilHealth officials resign over allegations of corruption in the state health insurance agency.
According to reports, there was a tense exchange during the executive committee meeting of PhilHealth, which led to the resignations of Thorsson Montes Keith, anti-fraud legal officer, native of La Trinidad, Benguet and Bai Laborte, head executive assistant of PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales.
A certain lawyer, identified only as Labe and who is also a legal officer of PhilHealth, will also tender his resignation, according to reports.
The signed resignation letter of Keith, detailed his reasons for his resignation that will be effective on August 31.
Keith said that he opposed the implementation of the mandatory payment of PhilHealth contributions by Overseas Filipino Workers, which was “unconstitutional” because it was not part of the Universal Health Care law.
“It is against my personal values to let the OFWs pay for the spillages of PhilHealth” he said.
He also cited the “rampant and patent unfairness in the promotion of officers in the state health firm,” the delay in his salary and hazard pay since the start of the investigation of officers in PhilHealth and “widespread corruption”.
“I think it is better for me to resign and let the course of things go its way,” Keith wrote in his letter.
PhilHealth has yet to comment on the resignations.
In adjacent Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong allayed fears the city is willing to risk the health of its residents to revive its tourism-based economy.
Magalong last week declared city doors will remain closed until the National Capital Region, Region III and Region IV stifles spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19).
A report of Julie Fianza of the city information office said this came in the heels of a presentation on the Baguio Visitors Management System (BVMS) by City Tourism Officer Aloysius Mapalo.
As the city maps out strategies, local tourism though may still be given the greenlight in September.
 The mayor noted, almost 45-percent of tourists come from Regions 3, 4 and the country’s capital based on a survey, September 2018 to April 2019.
Fianza said most of the city’s visitors hail from Aurora Province, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales in Region 3; Calamba in Laguna, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon in Region 4; and, part of Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, Mapalo said the BVMS is essentially a tourist tracking system which aids in thwarting spread of Covid-19 right from the city’s boarders, while ensuring income derived from use of various city amenities; traffic administration; and, environment management.
It renders a database for purposes of contact-tracing even before prospective visitors manage to roam the city under monitored conditions.
Meanwhile, the BVMS provides cashless transactions; scheduled travels and stops; ready and accredited transport services; and, ease of travel, among others, which provide tourists added sense of health security.
Mapalo is reportedly due to present a more detailed report on the BVMS, August 11.
Mayor Magalong had urged citizens to take stringent measures against Covid-19, through cashless transactions, massive surface disinfection, the establishment of barangay isolation facilities and immediate testing for those exhibiting influenza–like symptoms.
The mayor announced this during the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) meeting Monday afternoon at the Dept. of Health (DOH) conference hall, according to Fianza.
Earlier, Magalong, Vice-Mayor Faustino Olowan, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) officer-in-charge regional director Lalaine Sobremonte and other officials signed a memorandum of agreement with Squidpay, a multi-use transaction platform for online and cashless payment for express and public utility vehicles (PUV) through tap cards.
This advocates touchless, online, digitized and cash-less transactions, thus avoiding the spread of the dreaded Covid-19 virus.
Fianza also reported assive disinfection of groceries, the public market and perimeters, overpasses and alleys through the use of hypochlorite (NaOCl) solution.
NaOCl, a primary disinfection agent, bleach and odor remover was reportedly used in a three-day flushing and clean-up at the market and perimeters last week after infection links were found among market workers and their families. Selling hours was shortened temporarily for three half-days of clean-up, as vendors and section leaders agreed on, in a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Affected marketgoers from different districts were asked to patronize satellite markets and small vegetable sellers in the meantime.
Rolling stores shall also be scheduled in the barangays to decongest the city public market.
 During the IATF meeting, Magalong urged Baguio residents experiencing influenza-like symptoms to submit themselves for check-up and swabbing at the nearest health center.
Influenza symptoms are runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, fever and chills, body aches, headache, dry cough and sweating which unlike colds, develop suddenly.
 Influenza has similar symptoms with Covid-19 and affects the respiratory organs, nose, throat and lungs.
The city has ample supply of test kits which is used for community-based tests, the mayor said. Test kits are shared with neighboring municipalities and Cordillera provinces as the unified fight against Covid-19 goes on.
Fianza reported that suggestions on other basic protective practices against Covid-19 were solicited by the mayor from concerned citizens.
Barangay officials were also directed to locate barangay isolation facilities.
 “We have to be strategically prepared for any eventuality as area borders are gradually opening up,” the mayor said.
Anti-Covid medications and vaccines are still a way off, maybe during the last quarter of next year, Magalong added, thus minimum health protocols of wearing face mask, social distancing and frequent handwashing are still a must.
During the same meeting, Health Service Office head Dr. Rowena Galpo presented real-time information and situationer on the increasing Covid cases. She advocated avoiding the three Cs: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places with people, close contact setting and conversations.
Fianza said also present during the IATF meeting were Department of Health regional director Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) head Dr. Ricardo Runez, and representatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and other concerned agencies.


Bridging the generation gap

Perry Diaz

Recently, I read an article by my good friend Peter Jamero who was featured in the Positively Filipino magazine under his byline. Peter’s column was titled, “Racism: Reflections of a bridge generation Filipino-American.”  I was touched by Peter’s article.  Being born in 1930 during the Great Depression speaks volumes of how his family managed to survive the discrimination faced by Filipinos in an era when white Americans treated Filipinos harshly and inhumanely.  
           It was not uncommon to see signs in hotels saying, “Filipinos and dogs not allowed.”  But Peter and his family thrived.  Peter is now one of the most respected and successful Filipino-Americans in the country.  I ran into him occasionally, which I cherished dearly.  Peter is well known for his book, “Growing Up Brown: Memoirs of a Filipino-American” (2006) where he shares his insights and hardships growing up brown.
I came across the term “Bridge Generation” in 2003 when I worked closely with another Filipino-American, my very good friend, the late Judy Cantorna Tafoya.  Judy and I used to get together over coffee or lunch and talked about the Filipino-American community.  It was our common ground and we bonded well.  Judy was a second-generation Filipino-American.  
She didn’t speak the Filipino language but we communicated well in English.  We both served under the late Dr. Cecie Fontanoza who was appointed by then-Governor George Deukmejian as Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation. Judy was appointed Assistant Director of Special Projects and I was appointed Assistant Director for External Affairs.
Judy told me about the “Bridge Generation,” her generation of American-born Filipinos that is spread thinly throughout the United States, mostly in California. They were children of the “Manong Generation,” who came to the U.S. in the early 1900s. 
I wrote the column, “Bridging the generation gap,” 16 years ago, on January 30, 2004, which is reprinted here for your perusal:
Last week I attended the installation of officers of the Sacramento/Delta Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), one of 22 chapters across the United States.  In addition to the swearing-in of the chapter’s new leaders, two Filipino-Americans were presented with recognition awards.
Alfred Raquel, Sr., born in 1910, who came to the US in 1928, was part of the First Wave of Filipino immigrants.   Maestro Eugene Castillo, in his 30’s, was born to parents who came to the US in the early 1960s and were part of the Third Wave of Filipino immigrants.  They were honored for different reasons.  Mr. Raquel, honored for his community leadership, represents the dwindling number of a rare breed of Filipinos — the pioneer manongs and manangs — who came to the US from 1901 through 1945.  The US Department of Commerce documented their numbers from the 1910 census through the 1940 census at 200,393 men and 35,967 women.
Maestro Castillo, honored as the only Filipino-American conductor of a metropolitan symphony orchestra in the US, represents a fast-growing number of Filipino-Americans who are gaining visibility in the American socio-economic-political landscape.  Some people refer to them as the Fourth Wave — the US-born Filipino-Americans since 1946.
It is interesting to note that at the FANHS installation event, each wave of Filipino immigrants was represented.  There were members of the Second Wave, the Filipino immigrants who came after World War II.  The Second Wave consisted mostly of families of Filipinos who were veterans of the US armed forces. 
The Second Wave also included descendants of American soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American War of 1898.  A large number of American soldiers, including regiments of Buffalo soldiers — African-American soldiers — sent to the Philippines to fight in the Spanish-American War decided to stay after the war and married Filipino women. 
After World War II, the US government allowed the descendants of American veterans of the Spanish-American War to come to the US and become American citizens.  Since almost all of them were raised in the Philippines, their native language was Tagalog or any of the regional dialects.  It was not uncommon in the 50s and 60s to meet a Caucasian or African-American in the US who spoke fluent Tagalog.
Another group of Filipinos in the Second Wave was the First Wave Filipinos who enlisted in the US Army when the US declared war on Japan.  They were part of the much-decorated First and Second Filipino Infantry Regiments who landed in Leyte with General MacArthur.  Since most of them were bachelors, a lot of them went back to the US after the war with their Filipina “war brides.”
The Third Wave started with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which increased the immigration quota of Filipinos from 50 per year to 20,000 per year.  Most of the Filipino immigrants were professionals needed to fill the shortage of teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, and other professional fields.  
Among those who arrived in the Third Wave was my mother Maxima C. Diaz, an elementary school principal in Quezon City who taught at the San Francisco Unified School District.
The “annual quota of 50” was imposed in 1934 when the US Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act.  The Act provided for the independence of the Philippines on July 4, 1946.  However, it stripped Filipinos of their status as US nationals and severely restricted Filipino immigration by establishing an annual immigration quota of 50.  Henceforth, Filipinos in the US were no longer considered “nationals.”  They were labeled as “aliens.”
With the influx of Filipino immigrants curtailed and with a ratio of seven Filipino men for every Filipino woman, no more than 10% of the Filipino men got married. 
Those who were lucky were married to the few Filipino women available in the US.  A large number of Filipino men married white women and other races including blacks, Indians, and Mexicans due to the rarity of Filipino women.  A small number of Filipino men spent their savings and went back to the Philippines to find a bride. 
The Filipino men were known to be romantic and good lovers.  It was not uncommon for five or more Filipino men to pool their savings and buy the flashiest car in town.  Then they took turns in driving the car with their dates.   The anti-miscegenation laws in most states — including California — prevented the Filipinos from marrying white women.  Undeterred, the Filipino men went to states with no anti-miscegenation laws and marry their non-Filipino brides.  Mr. Raquel was one of them.
Out of these institutionalized racist laws, a new generation of Filipinos emerged.  About 20,000 of the First Wave Filipinos were able to marry and raise families.  Their children — a good number of which were of mixed parentage — assimilated easily into the American mainstream.  However, to survive in mainstream America, virtually all of them were not taught the language of their Filipino parents.  They grew up without the idiosyncrasies of their Filipino heritage.  A lot of them succeeded in life.  And for a while they lost their links to their Filipino heritage.  Some called them the “Invisible Generation” and others called them the “Lost Generation.”
When Fred and Dorothy Cordova in Seattle, Washington founded FANHS in 1982, the Invisible or Lost Generation began to surface.  One of the society’s priorities is to research and document the “Filipino presence as early as 1587 and of Filipinos’ permanent settlement as early as 1763 in the Continental U.S.”  FANHS was successful in achieving its goals.
One of the prominent leaders of FANHS is Peter Jamero.  Born in Oakdale, California, he received his bachelor’s degree at the San Jose State University, his master’s degree at UCLA, and a one-year graduate work at Stanford University.  Peter and his family moved to Seattle, Washington and consequently were appointed by Governor Don Evans as State Director of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1972. 
He served until 1980, the first Filipino-American appointed as a Director of a state department.  He was also the first Filipino-American appointed as a department head in the City and County of San Francisco from 1989-91.  Now retired, Mr. Jamero is back to his roots in California.  He told me that in 1994, at the FANHS national convention in San Francisco, the society redefined the Invisible or Lost Generation as the “Bridge Generation” — “the sons and daughters born to at least one Filipino parent prior to1945.”
The list of successful members of the Bridge Generation is long.  Amongst them is a United States Senator from a western state.  Now in their 60s and 70s, they served as the living bridge between the pioneer manongs and manangs — who came and established a new community in the United States — and a new class of Americans that we know today as “Filipino-Americans.”
Postscript: Filipino-Americans born to members of the Bridge Generation include present-day California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, current Mayor Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, former Acting California Secretary of State Mona Pasquil, and Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia whose maternal grandfather belongs to the First Wave. 
Fourth Wave immigrants who made good in the U.S. include former Mayor Ruth Asmundson of Davis, California; former Mayors Jose Esteves and Henry Manayan of Milpitas, California; and many more from around the U.S.
Notable children of Fourth Wave Filipino-Americans include Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah; U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco; Congressman TJ Cox of California; California Assemblyman Rob Bonta; former Mayor Mark Pulido of Cerritos, California; and many more from all over the United States. 


A suspicious bridge and a distrustful war

March L. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, what communities need are political focus and execution of disciplinary measures. We need focus in fighting so many wrongs, in addition to getting rid of the coronavirus.
            That is why I agree that violators of health protocols such as not observing physical distancing and not wearing masks properly in public should just be arrested immediately and fined, or both.
At least they will not be shot like what some cops did to violators in the Spanish flu of 1918. If not, then our efforts to keep the number of Covid-19 infections down will be wasted, and so with the efforts of our city and barangay officials.  
I read somewhere a study that found the Philippines second to Singapore in the number of people wearing masks worldwide. It said that at least 90 percent of Filipinos wear masks all the time. It means that nine out of 10 people wear masks. Comparing our leaders’ efforts to those in the USA or Brazil, it is an accomplishment. Yet, it may also be a failure.
At first, the study looks good but if you think again, it points out that 10 people out of 100 may probably get the virus or infect others. Or, 10 percent of people not wearing masks in Manila that has around 12 million population means that 1.2 million people can get infected and possibly transmit the virus to others.
The last thing we will see in the fight against the pandemic is our leaders disagreeing with each other. That is why the president clipped the functions of the DOH in containing the virus and assigning three czars for the job. Mayor Benjie Magalong was appointed as contact tracing czar which he readily accepted knowing that he can help other districts in need of his advice in their fight against COVID-19, which is helping the country as well.
With that, a silent sector in Baguio was quite disappointed when Mayor Magalong accepted his new task, thinking that the city’s efforts in sustaining the environment, protecting our forest stands and finding solutions to other problems in the city are pushed back. This, even while the mayor said he has delegated management of the city in good hands.
Perhaps, in order not to lose our fight against the virus at a time when the mayor is doubling his efforts for the city and as the country’s contact tracing czar, we might as well also exert more discipline in observing health protocols as we double our efforts in helping our leaders find solutions to other problems.
Sometime in 2016, an army contingent in Mountain Province patrolled the mountains of Betwagan of Sadanga, Mountain Province and Bugnay of Tinglayan, Kalinga as there were reports of clearing of spaces allegedly to be used as marijuana plantation. This was suspected to ignite misunderstanding between the two barangays that could lead to a tribal war.
Bugnay and Betwagan had been at odds in the past as highlighted by a weeklong gunfight in 2002. The shooting war stopped when municipal and provincial officials from both sides intervened. Shooting wars between the two tribes in the past were ignited by a fight for a water source located on a disputed boundary.
The war between the two neighboring towns erupted again last February 13 following a shooting incident where those involved blamed each other on who pulled the first shot.
The latest firefight occurred last Monday when armed men allegedly from the neighboring town of Betwagan, Sadanga, attacked Bugnay (Tinglayan, Kalinga) territory resulting in the death of two tribesmen (from Betwagan).
There were also reports that the elected officials of one of the towns involved signed a document that fixed the boundaries but such document was not honored by the officials of the other town as it was not favorable to them.
            I read that the 7,000- strong Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) will contribute P500 each from their salaries to help construct a footbridge project in Sadanga.
Accordingly, the bridge project was proposed to the regional task force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) by National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr. who suggested that the fund for the bridge will no longer be referred to any government agency because of the long and tedious process through the General Appropriations Act (GAA), so that the funding will be delivered within the year.
The RTF-ELCAC members will instead expedite the signing of a “pass the hat” resolution to be given to the police PDs and CDs to be used in collecting the contributed salaries of policemen. The resolution will also be used to seek support of LCEs in the Cordillera. The money, if completely collected will amount to PhP3.5 million which will help build a bridge project as “gesture of gratitude” for peace and order programs in the municipality and efforts to fight insurgency in the area.
Putting extra effort to fight insurgency is a job for all and it is not bad to get something back for one’s extra effort but there should be no strings attached to it. By the way, if a proposed project will benefit the public that is funded by donations, then it should be bided out as in a government project. A work program is needed too and the beneficiaries identified, seeing to it that the project will benefit a greater majority, not a family or a clan.
There is a buzz that the act of asking policemen to give away a part of their salary is causing a lot of heartburn among them. The contribution is voluntary so that a policeman may choose to give or not, but the subtle and not so subtle reminders from their officers that are repeated, and asking them to contribute are leaving them with no choice but to give.
Contributing part of one’s salary for a supposedly government project during the coronavirus pandemic of a scale we have never seen has added to the resentment of the policemen and their families. Some of them might want to contribute to other equally important projects. Why should they have to contribute only to solicitations from their boss?


Baguio Covid-19 new measures

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong ordered redeployment of checkpoints in the city’s 129-barangays.
This, to limit residents’ movements to essential and permitted activities before curfew hours.
In Memorandum No. 125 series of 2020 the mayor explained, recent spike in cases called for stricter measures to contain transmission of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
He said the city is still under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), which prohibits non-essential travels.
As of press time, some barangays have started to comply with the mayor’s directives, setting-up checkpoints in coordination with the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO).
To serve as deterrent, the mayor said checkpoints must be located along barangay or interior roads and not on national or provincial roads. It must be operated under the supervision of the BCPO.
Checkpoints must ensure movement of residents are for essential purposes only; and, not outside current curfew hours. However, cargo vehicles passage must be unimpeded, the mayor reminded.
“We have been having a sharp increase in cases in our locale so, if you don’t have anything important to do, stay home. Let’s not put our guards down,” he reiterated.
Mayor Magalong on July 20 also issued Memorandum No. 123-2020, ordering barangay chiefs and members of the Barangay Health Emergency Teams (BHERTs) to encourage residents experiencing flu-like symptoms to have medical check-ups.
City Health Services Office head Dr. Rowena Galpo was likewise tipped to prepare different health centers for the influx of residents seeking medical attention and testing.
The mayor said, “If we assess people with flu-like symptoms like fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, and fatigue early, we can immediately identify carriers and isolate them thereby preventing further virus transmission.”
These comes in the heels of a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the city in the past days, with clustering observed in two barangays. Patients of late manifested symptoms of the malady.
Allaying fears, the mayor averred, “Although we have had an increase of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the city in recent weeks, we are completely prepared and capacitated with adequate testing and isolation facilities for our constituents.”
He added, the city is ready to address future cases with its well-placed contact tracing, testing, isolation and medical systems.
But the residents’ cooperation remains to be a crucial factor, he emphasized.
The mayor appealed, “Please bear with us and continue to be vigilant in observing our health and quarantine protocols by wearing your masks properly at all times.”
“Wash your hands; observe cough and sneeze etiquettes; limit your travels outside of the home to essentials; maintain physical distancing; and, avoid the 3 Cs: crowded places; close contact settings; and confined and enclosed spaces,” he added.
"Treat yourselves like you have it. Treat others like they have it. Make it a habit.
Baguio now has a total of 387 Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) to carry out Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) control measures in the grassroots.
Mayor Magalong said the number is now more than the requirement under the minimum health system capacity standards for COVID-19 preparedness and response strategies set by the Dept. of Health under its Administrative Order No. 2020-0016 for local government units, which is one BHERT for every 1,000 residents.
He thanked the Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Baguio Field Office under City Director Evelyn Trinidad for spearheading the creation of the teams.
Trinidad, in her report to the mayor, said that to comply with the DPH requirement, the city needed a total of 370 BHERTs but a total of 387 teams were actually organized or 17 more than the expected number.
The report showed that 15 barangays formed additional teams to address the needs of their population.
Irisan barangay had the most number with 34 teams followed by Asin Road with 14, Camp 7 with 13 and Loakan Proper with 11.
The mayor last July 1 ordered the formation of more BHERTs to comply with the DOH requirement and for the city to “effectively maintain and carry out standard preparedness mechanisms against COVID-19. 
Before the order, the city only has one BHERT in each of the 129 barangays.
The BHERT is tasked to keep a list of persons in the barangay who had been to COVID-19-afflicted areas and submit the list to the City Inter-Agency Task Force chaired by Mayor Magalong.
The BHERTs also enforces home confinement for persons arriving from the other areas, in coordination with the Department of Health; extend assistance and support to persons undergoing home confinement; refer and transport COVID patients; BHERTs members shall conduct regular barangay-wide cleanup campaign as well as provide information campaign to educate their constituents on proper hygiene and sanitation practices, in accordance to the guideline provided by the DOH.
The team is composed of a chairperson, a barangay tanod, a Barangay health Worker, a Barangay Nutrition Action Officer and a Barangay Nutrition Scholar where at least one member must be a registered nurse or midwife.
The mayor said the BHERTs may be augmented by physicians, nurses, midwives, sanitary inspectors, population officers, Bureau of Fire Protection staff, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office staff or volunteers.  


Covid-19 and its effects

Beverly Pacyaya-Ticobay

Coronavirus Disease 2019, also known as Covid-19, has paralyzed today’s globalized, fast-paced world. Reports have surfaced that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 was manufactured.
Here’s what we know: It belongs to a family of viruses called Coronavirus, due to the presence of crown-like structures that surround their surface – a unique feature of this family of viruses. Four of the seven known coronaviruses regularly cause mild disease in humans and these viruses have been identified since the mid-1960s.
The remaining three, a group wherein the SARS-CoV-2 belongs, are coronaviruses that originally only infected non-humans and have since developed the ability or trick to be able to cross species and infect humans.
This virus isn’t artificially manufactured, there is no proof for that, reports say. Rather, it’s been put in an environment that allowed it to evolve.
SARS-CoV-2 originally only infected bats. And, similar to SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus), it developed the uncanny ability to cross-species and infect humans.
Now, viruses are curious little critters in a class of their own. They appear to be non-living things outside of a host, and when inside one, they usurp a cell’s basic life functions to replicate itself, reproduce before popping out of that host cell to infect other neighboring cells. Environment is a major driving factor to evolution and mutation and we’ve successfully altered that not just for us, but for everyone and everything on this planet -- intentional or not.
Our activities carry a great impact to our lives and even greater for those after us. Hello global warming, but this can be a topic for another story so let’s talk Covid-19.
While much of the world remains paralyzed, we see countries, localities slowly trying to reboot their economy. Resources are limited and most quarantine protocols, lockdown protocols right now are akin to bunkers with insufficient supplies (i.e. food, water and medicines) and even if those supplies are abundant, it is bound to run out unless actions are taken.
So now we see lockdowns being lifted, some are successful, some aren’t; and quarantine measures being relaxed, again, some see relative success, others not.
Before ranting about an ineffective, inefficient government, one has to know that there are still puzzling details about Covid-19 and the spread of the virus.
Areas with the same hot climate aren’t considered safe spots from the virus as Covid-19 case count differences taking into account climate seem insignificant.
Places whose population share the same gene pool and have relaxed quarantine protocols are seeing different outcomes. Why thrombosis and clotting disorders happen as reported by Covid-19 patients is still a question that needs to be answered.
But findings indicate the older population are at higher risk of contracting the disease and experiencing severe illness. Having pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease, and being immunocompromised could put one at higher risk for severe illness.
Proper hygiene and frequent hand-washing with soap can help prevent infection, medical experts say. And with these, governments have come up with critical policies that have since helped lower the infection rate although some have been criticized.
Thus, rallies, protests and petitions like online petitions were held that did not result to careless mass gatherings were justified. These public dissent have resulted to checking of mistakes in addressing the virus. This pandemic has highlighted and/or exposed the different flaws, shortcomings of individuals and institutions. It has also become the pre-cursor to new measures and methods of rebuilding communities, societies and countries like education.
Mass gatherings are highly discouraged, and even if young and healthy people are at lesser risk of severe Covid-19 illness, they may go home to people who are.
With the Philippines’ extended family set-ups, hospitals are overrun with patients. a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 is yet to be developed and having protection from SARS-CoV-2 re-infection after a successful recovery is not yet guaranteed.
In addressing education, the Philippines’ system is designed for traditional classroom learning. We’ve only had a few generations of home-schooled graduates, as well as a few home-schooling institutions. Teachers are not trained to deliver lessons online, at times, even ill-equipped to do so.
Educational institutions are faced with the huge task of re-designing course curriculums to fit the “new normal” and to ensure that course delivery strategies are as inclusive as much as possible and stays affordable for all their students.
Struggles to resolve financial constraints from low enrolment turnouts, suspended investments and incomplete projects also add to this concern for schools. It does not end there.
Parents and students face challenges as well. Many are getting laid-off work, getting pay cuts while they try to deal with new expenditures like investing in a capable laptop, reliable and fast internet connection, and more.
On modular approach which mostly follows a home-schooling design, parents may not afford a home-school teacher or even have time to teach their kids while trying to make ends meet.
With online and modular, home-based learning, schools have to have greater faith in their students and students themselves have to abide to an honor code if they want to have tangible, learning outcomes.
Now, more than ever, parents/guardians, schools and students have to fit themselves to a certain dynamic and form a team-based community.
Perhaps the bigger questions on everyone’s mind are: Can this new normal for education work? Will students be able to learn as much online or via modular, home-based learning? And is investing on online learning devices and services now a sound investment? What if normal face-to-face classes resume next term? And if it does, will that mean one’ll have invested on online learning tools only to not need it as much then?
These are questions made more real by botched expectations of once promised shorter or cheaper tertiary-level education (with the removal of general education subjects) with the K-12 program.
Whether K-12 is bad or there is need to step up our educational standards to equal global ones are concerns. Education may not have gotten the proper preparation for smoother transition for students, parents and teachers.
A more standard quality education and curriculum may make senior-high graduates not having to catch-up with others from other senior high schools when they reach college and tertiary education providers may not be compelled to deal with it.
Online learning along with modular, home-based may be the norm for long.
Online learning and home schooling, like SARS-CoV-2, are not new. Home-schooled kids can do well when they transfer to classroom-based learning. Online certificates and for now, earning degrees in selected fields of study are as real as this pandemic.
Also, while nobody should wish for it, this isn’t the first pandemic and it may not very well be the last.


Sagada veggies reach door to door sale in Manila

Farmers load vegetables to a truck driven straight to Manila and distributed by a contact  in a door to door arrangement.  

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE- The new normal at this times of the Covid pandemic comes to be advantageous for vegetable farmers able to recoup their expenses at reasonable cost with veggies sold directly in Manila through the aid of a friendly contact.
Now on its eigth run in July 29, the local government unit of Sagada through the office of the municipal agriculturist (OMAG) facilitate market of local vegetables and other products to Manila with waiting customers having pre-ordered their chosen goods.
The normal run of the market for vegetables has it that the farmer relies on the market price of vegetables in Baguio or Manila and gamble on predetermined expectations of ‘waday swerte waday malas’ (good luck or bad luck).
               Having a quick run to La Trinidad or Baguio expecting a price of P100 peso per kilo of red cabbage for example and discovering that the price has dived to P20 per kilo opun reaching Baguio is disastrous for the farmer  who incurred high transportation and production costs. Good if the market price maintained the expectation or even got higher but if not, its tough luck and spells misery for the farmer who went through months of hard labor and expensive inputs.
And it was that system before the new normal marketing system happened.  
This Covid pandemic opened new and secured remedies to sell local products to Manila while observing protocols in addressing the threats of Covid-19.  
Maria Ap-apid, municipal agriculturist said directly selling the vegetables to Manila through the help of a friend of the town is a big help to farmers who have difficulties in marketing their products at this time of the Covid pandemic.
At the height of the Covid pandemic in March, Mayor James Pooten contacted Tracy Santiago a long-time friend of Sagada based in Manila to help in the sale of locally raised vegetables.
And so it was  that tons of tomatoes and bell pepper were left to rot in the farms due to these not having been transported to La Trinidad, Baguio or Santiago Isabela in the early days of the pandemic.
Sagada produces tons of temperate vegetables-  tomatoes, cabbage (red and green), wombok, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots, sayote, sweet peas, and beans the whole year round and its normal market sold in town and nearby places of Bontoc, Isabela and Baguio.
In this new normal marketing strategy, temperate crops including eggplants raised by some 40 gardeners reach the capital city of Manila twice a month with some 1.5 to 5 tons per trip the past eight runs since April 7.
Other products carried to Manila are home -made goods- jams, jellies, coffee, ham, etag (smoked meat) and recently pottery goods- all processed by Sagada’s entrepreneurs.
Local products- veggies and home processed foods – are usually marketed in town and in nearby Baguio, La Trinidad, Isabela and the Ilocos before the occurrence of the Covid pandemic.
Locally made products- jams, jellies, cookies, etag, pickles, woven bags, and ceramics were bought by tourists in town who come from Baguio, Manila. Ilocos, Visayas, Davao, and foreigners having reached their peak at 180,000 arrivals separately in the past two years.
The new normal market strategy of the LGU is made possible with a hired truck and a contact in Manila who does the orders.   
Vegetables priced from 25 to 40 pesos per kilogram at farm gate price are delivered at door to door arrangement with reasonable market prices by a partner in Manila.
Temperate vegetables mostly raised in the food basket of southern Sagada and some at the central town faced marketing problems this Covid pandemic times.
With the Covid threat, LGU protocols require drivers coming from outside to undergo a 14-day stay at the Pegew quarantine site while another home- based driver drives the vehicle home with back-load goods if there are some.
And for the driver who goes outside to Covid- infected Manila and pass through equally covid-infected Baguio holds a health declaration and municipal pass, his driver’s ID and a food pass from the office of the municipal agriculturist.   
In two consecutive times during the first and second runs to Manila, veggies transported from town were transferred to a container van of the regional Department of Agriculture (DA)  at Pegew checkpoint where the initial 5 tons of veggies were eventually transported to Manila. The driver who came from Baguio was the one who drove the vehicle to Manila.  
The DA took charge of the fuel and the driver’s allowance twice. Toll fees were paid by the contact in Manila.
On the third run onwards, local vehicles transported the goods straight to Manila. The truck of the LGU transported the goods in four consecutive times to Manila and farmers paid P7.00 per kg of their products to answer for the fuel and travel cost. Toll fees were especially paid by Masferre’s and Log Cabin CafĂ© from the 3rd to the 6th run. 
Beginning in the third run, boxes of home-made jams and jellies and some 200- 400 packs of coffee from the Sagada Coffee Growers and Producers Organization  (SACGPO) are carried each week to Manila. 
Locally made ceramic products caught up in the market in the 7th run.
With the opening up of the economy in Manila in June, orders slowed down reaching some 1.5 tons of veggies. Processed foods were still ordered. 
The seventh and the recent trip are now being transported by a private truck and market of local veggies and homemade stuff continues. The municipal agriculturist office still maintains to facilitate coordination of farmers’ products and other home-made stuff to Manila.    
Now on uniform transportation cost, farmers and other entrepreneurs who have their goods carried to Manila pay the usual freight cost of P7.00 per kg of their products for the transport cost. The usual transport cost of vehicles to Manila from Sagada is P18,000 per trip  and vice versa. 
With goods in quantity at a freight price of P7.00 per kg, the private truck owner/businessman has to find other products not necessarily ordered by the LGU contact in Manila to recoup his expenses and backload products which maybe are ordered in Sagada.
At a time when the Covid pandemic shall end, shall the market system currently practiced continue?
Ap-apid said it will with the cooperation of private parties.
Sagada especially the southern part composed of barangays Balugan, Suyo and Ankileng and the outskirts of central Sagada in Ambasing, Demang, Patay and Dagdag grow both vegetables and fruits. Vegetables include both temperate and traditional root crops- corn, camote, cassava, gabi, legumes and rice.
Sagada is still largely agricultural with 85 percent farmers planting traditional crops. Barely 200 farmers plant temperate commercial crops.
During this Covid pandemic, some inn keepers, souvenir shop owners, tourist guides and their respective families have resorted to gardening of vegetables and traditional crops, sale of veggies, fruits, processed foods, dry goods, livestock sale and ‘wagwag’ or ukay-ukay; and construction work.
Some women cook home-made meals- shanghai lumpia, pansit, puto, turon, lumpia- and sell these door to door in the immediate town marketed via Facebook.
Other residents are in the usual sarisari store and dry goods business.
The rest of the populace are a few employed in government and cooperative organizations.    
Economy goes on and life is still good for Covid- free culture- rich Sagada as the community people conduct their usual customary practices.     


2 dead as Air Force chopper crashes, explodes in Isabela

By Leander Domingo

CAUAYAN CITY, Isabela -- A Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopter carrying five persons crashed and exploded in a village here on Thursday night.
In its initial investigation, the Isabela Provincial Police Office (IPPO) said there were two bodies, who were identified as the pilots, found inside the charred helicopter. Two crew members are missing.
Police said another crew member who sustained multiple injuries was rushed to the nearest hospital.
The helicopter with tail number 8303 was about to take off when it crashed and exploded at the ramp area of the Tactical Operations Group 2 (TOG2) in Barangay San Fermin here.


7 NPAs surrender to Cordillera cops

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Seven New People’s Army guerillas voluntarily surrendered to government authorities recently.
A certain Boyet; 32,  of Basao, Tinglayan, Kalinga and member of the New People’s Army’s Leonardo Pacsi Command and a another named only as Abe, 43, of Basao gave themselves up to Benguet police command here July 15.
They surrendered a M14 Rifle one magazine loaded with 12 bullets and Cal. 45 pistol loaded with seven bullets.
 Boyet operated in the municipalities of Tinglayan, kalinga; Bontoc and Sadanga towns in  Mt. Province while Abe operated in Tinglayan, Lubuagan, Pasil and Tabuk City.
Two more members of the LPC surrendered.  “Ka Shina,” a medics of the group voluntarily surrendered at Benguet Benguet provincial police office here in Camp Dangwa on July 12, while "Digma", 28, of Basao, Tinglayan, a NPA team leader surrendered in Camp Dennis Molintas, Bangao, Buguias, Benguet on July 13.
Their group operated in the towns of Bontoc, Sagada, Bauko and Tadian Mt Province.
Meanwhile, Tikoy and A. Yangsi, both 21, of Basao, surrendered at provincial police headquarters at Camp Captain Juan M Duyan, Bulanao, Tabuk on July 14.
The former rebels surrendered their firearms: an M16 rifle with bullets blasting cap and clamor explosive 
Aka Agnay, 58, widow, farmer under the Militia ng Bayan also surrendered in Sitio Maliten, Laylaya, Besao, Mt. Province on July 11.


4 Covid cases in Ifugao; border checkpoints set

By Marcelo B. Lihgawon

LAGAWE, Ifugao - - With the four recorded coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) confirmed cases last week  in this capital town, the provincial government strengthened enforcement of health protocols on border checkpoints and offices.
 All entry and exit points of the province are now fully manned by frontliners to implement the health protocols to avoid the entry or spread of Covid-19 in municipalities of the province.
In an advisory, Gov. Jerry Dalipog stated that after observation and study of the data from those tested positive, it was found out that almost all the cases are persons with travel history to other places.   
“To prevent further local transmission of COVID-19 infection, all travellers who went to and from outside the province most especially from hotspot areas are ordered to submit themselves to their respective municipal health officers for health protocols before they will be brought to designated quarantine areas,” Dalipog added.
The governor urged cooperation of national agencies particularly whose clients come from outside the province like local courts and post office to get the basic information about an individual for contact tracing.
Offices were also urged to establish a handwashing area within the vicinity of their offices, disinfection at entrances before transactions start, strictly implement wearing of face mask, and observe social distance and proper coughing etiquette. (JDP/MBL- PIA CAR, Ifugao)


Hiring of rumor-mongers as contact tracers backed

>> Thursday, July 30, 2020

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY -- Information gathering from confirmed Corona virus disease (Covid) 2019 patients in the country will be enhanced with the proposed hiring of rumor-mongers as potential contact tracers to help in the immediate identification of their close contacts within a short span of time.
Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong, the newly-installed contact tracing czar, expressed support to the proposal of law enforcers to hire rumor-mongers as potential contact tracers because there will be information that will be derived from them that could help in speeding up the identification of the close contacts of confirmed COVID patients in the different parts of the country.
However, the city mayor explained that it will now be up to the law enforcers and the health workers to ascertain the veracity of the information gathered from the rumor-mongers but it is still important to consider the information that will be culled from them in the intensified contact tracing of the close contacts of COVID patients.
He said one of the problems that he discovered during his visits to the different local governments is the inability of contact tracers to identify the close contacts of confirmed Covid patients within 24 hours to prevent the spread of the deadly virus in the community.
The local chief executive disclosed that in the city, contact tracers are able to immediately identify at least 34 close contacts of confirmed COVID cases in just 24 hours while the practice in other local governments is that they simply confine the close contacts of confirmed cases to the members of the family which should not be the case.
Earlier, some law enforcers proposed to the government the possible hiring of rumor-mongerers as members of the contact tracing teams of local governments as the information that will be gathered from them will serve as part of the guide of contact tracers in pinpointing the close contacts of COVID patients who will be subjected to the mandatory swab test.
According to him, another loophole that he was able to discover in the ongoing campaign against the spread of the deadly virus is the inability of local officials to enhance their contact tracing efforts which was identified as among the major reasons in the spike of COVID cases although they were able to concentrate in their efforts on testing and the put up of the required quarantine and isolation facilities.
Magalong said  local officials were able to realize the importance of a well-oiled contact tracing after members of the city’s contact tracing team presented to them the contact tracing system that had been put in place in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP) that provided the investigation tool that was improved purposely for contact tracing.
He stated another glaring fault in the systems that were put in place by some local governments in the different parts of the country is that the decision-making was delegated to second level decision-makers in the bureaucracy that tended to have an effect on the decisions that were handed down on the proper handling of the confirmed cases.


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