The joint meeting of the Regional Development Council VI (RDC VI) and Regional Peace and Order Council VI (RPOC VI) on February 6, 2020, at the RDC Conference Hall, successfully identified strategies to tighten and harmonize precautionary measures of relevant council members in order to sustain the nCOV-free status of the region.

The importance of the joint meeting was highlighted by the presence of Governor Rhodora J. Cadiao of Antique and Chairperson of the RDC-VI, Governor Arthur R. Defensor, Jr. of Iloilo and Chairperson of the RPOC-VI and Governor Florencio T. Mirafloresr of Aklan,  NEDA-VI RD Ro-Ann A. Bacal who is also the Vice-Chairperson of the RDC-VI and DILG RD Ariel O. Iglesia, the Vice-Chairperson of the RPOC-VI as well as other local chief executives, private sector representatives, key officials of government agencies and members of the media.

Director Marlyn W. Convocar of the DOH provided the council members with updates on the DOH’s plan of action to contain the virus, the quarantine protocols and facilities being put in place and the epidemiology and surveillance units being activated.  In her presentation, Director Convocar advocated for the use of Health Declaration Cards by all local government units (LGUs) in order to hasten contact-tracing of affected persons in case of any eventualities. These Health Declaration Cards are proposed to be collected by the LGUs and forwarded to the DOH, for their reference. Governor Miraflores of Aklan shared that the use of Health Declaration Cards is already being practiced as a monitoring tool in the province of Aklan. He reiterated, however, that although they are monitoring all tourists with departure links to countries with nCOV cases, Aklan remains to be nCOV free.

Both Director Convocar and Director Iglesia emphasized the importance of the activation and functionality of Barangay Emergency Heath Response Teams (BEHRTS) as first-line monitors to address the containment, prevention and control of the spread of nCOV.

Dir. Convocar’s presentation likewise opened the discussion on the need for thermal scanners to proactively detect possible nCOV carriers in all ports of entry in the region.  Dir. Convocar explained that, although thermal scanners will not be able to detect asymptomatic nCOV carriers, the same will strongly assist in identifying possible carriers that need to be quarantined. Dir. Convocar clarified, however, that not all travelers with temperatures of above 38 degree celsius need to quarantined. These symptoms should be correlated with travel history to countries with reported nCOV cases and period of travel from these countries which should be within 14 days from date of departure. Governor Cadiao suggested that inexpensive thermal scanners maybe purchased to be able to initially identify persons with fevers but that clarificatory tests may be undertaken to rule-out the presence of the virus.

In response, the RDC-RPOC passed Resolution No. 1, series of 2020 – “REQUIRING ALL SEAPORTS AND AIRPORTS IN WESTERN VISAYAS TO INSTALL THERMAL SCANNERS OR USE THERMAL THERMOMETERS AND STRICTLY FOLLOW STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES PROVIDED BY THE DOH INCLUDING THE USE OF THE HEALTH DECLARATION CARD”. With this resolution all LGUs are expected to galvanize their respective resources in response to this agreement.  A meeting with the DOH, CAAP, LTFRB, PPA and other concerned agencies will immediately be set to discuss specific guidelines to implement the resolution.

A discussion also ensued regarding the practice of an airline company to refuse flight passage to passengers registering 37.5 degree celsius temperature. The body agreed that this is another helpful proactive measure that can be requested from airline companies in order to ensure that departing passengers that are suspected nCOV carriers are already given proper medical attention before flight.

“Time is of the essence” reiterated Governor Defensor who insists that RDC-RPOC expedite the request to airline companies plying the region 6 route to also adopt the same measure being initiated by said company. In response, the RDC-RPOC passed Resolution No.2, series of 2020 – “REQUESTING ALL AIRLINE COMPANIES TO INSTALL THERMAL SCANNERS OR USE THERMAL THERMOMETER TO MONITOR INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC PASSENGERS PRIOR TO FLIGHTS COMING TO THE REGION”. This resolution will be forwarded to the CAAP and all airline companies plying the Western Visayas route.  The same measure is being eyed for ports and sea ports.

The presentation of ARD Josilyn S. Solada of DepEd also directed the focus of the council to the well-being of the children – one of the identified vulnerable groups of this epidemic. As an additional precautionary measure, the body passed the following resolutions to ensure the safety of children – RDC-RPOC Resolution No. 3, series of 2020, “RESOLUTION REQUESTING THE DEPED-VI TO PROVIDE ALL SCHOOLS WITH THE NECESSARY LOGISTICAL REQUIREMENTS (SOAP, DISINFECTANTS, ETC.) FOR THE USE OF THE STUDENTS TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OR CONTAMINATION OF nCOV” and “RDC-RPOC Resolution No. 4, series of 2020 – “REQUESTING THE DOH TO ISSUE GUIDELINES TO SUCs AND HEIs WHO HAVE STUDENT INTERNS ASSIGNED AS PART OF THEIR TRAINING IN THE DIFFERENT HOSPITALS ON THE MANNER OF HANDLING SUSPECTED CASES OF nCOV TO ENSURE THEIR SAFETY”.

RD Iglesia tackled the DILG issuances to LGUs pertaining to nCOV preparedness while preparatory efforts in containing the entrance of suspected carriers of the virus in seaports was presented by Mr. Herbert Navarro of the PPA. Alternatively, Mr. Diego Abecendario of the CAAP reported on the preparatory efforts in containing the entrance of suspected carriers of the virus in various ports. The status report on activities undertaken to safeguard the riding public was discussed by Atty. Josette B. Abellar of the LTFRB.

Updates on price control and regulation of protective gears and other medical disinfectants, as well as guidelines and activities to prevent the spread of virus in the business workplace, as presented by Ms. Judith Degala of DTI. RD Helen J. Catalbas of the DOT provided the council with updates on the effects of the nCov to the tourism industry and the guidelines and activities to prevent the spread of the virus in tourism-related establishments, and tourist attractions. Atty. Phillip Capadosa of the CSC likewise presented the preparatory efforts of the CSC in guiding government offices regarding the protection of its employees and the general public. Ms. Aleta Nogra of the OCD, on the other hand reported on OCD’s preparations in case of a worst case scenario in the context of disaster risk reduction. Ms. Joann Marie Castelo of the BSP talked about their office’s guidelines in protecting bank customers and employees while OIC Regional Head Jemin B. Guillermo of the PIA discussed the information dissemination activities conducted on all media platforms to educate the public.

The RDC-VI regular meeting will once again convene on March 20, 2020 at Bago City, Negros Occidental to further follow thru the agreements and resolutions made and passed during the joint RDC-RPOC meeting.