Kalayaan, Batanes remain free of COVID-19 worries
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines — The Kalayaan Group of Islands in Palawan province, the country’s last frontier town at the West Philippine Sea, and Batanes, its northernmost province, are still undisturbed by the threat of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has been plaguing the world.
Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo said the remote islands, also the least populated municipality in the Philippines at 184, remain out of reach from the deadly virus but still observe the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) protocols set by the national government over Luzon to curb the spread of infection.
“We are not affected by COVID-19. People are living their normal lives but we still implement the ECQ guidelines,” he said.
The delivery of food supplies remains unhampered as these are usually transported in bulk and last up to three months.
Kalayaan residents are provided with relief packs, including 15 kilograms of rice, canned goods, and instant noodles.
Whole of municipality
The municipal government is also poised to give P3,000 for each household coming from 70 percent of its disaster risk budget after the provincial government placed the entire Palawan province under a state of calamity last month.
While Kalayaan’s remoteness was its advantage for remaining virus-free, Batanes attributed its situation to preparedness.
At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Batanes was one of the first provinces to organize an interagency task force to fend off the infectious disease, regulating inbound travel, including a travel ban on tourists, in the second week of February.
A domestic travel ban was implemented in Metro Manila only in mid-March, which was subsequently followed by local governments outside of the national capital.
Considering the lack of medical facilities in Batanes’ Itbayat town, Mayor Raul de Sagon issued the travel ban after consulting with local health officials.
The move was made when the country recorded its first three confirmed COVID-19 cases, said Charmaine Gato, local group operations officer of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Gato said the local government was quick to implement the whole-of-municipality approach. “This is basically converging efforts of each member of the community to achieve one goal: Ensure public safety,” she said in a Facebook post.
Dr. Allan Sande, Itbayat District Hospital chief, said all patients under investigation and under monitoring for COVID-19 in Batanes were already cleared of the disease on April 2.
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