Dipolog City – Joann S. Baclion, one of 11 Barangay Health Workers (BHW’s) of Sta. Isabel Barangay Health Center, who started her work on 2020 just few months where the first case of COVID-19 in the city is recorded and it’s in this same barangay. Subsequently she was also infected with the disease but said she’s lucky to have survived and recovered.
“Para nako sir, wala ko’y gilabanan pikas-pikas, kon unsa akong nakita mao ra pod akong e-istorya, akong nakita nga ang gihimo nga health services sa city nag-improve gyud.” (For me sir, I don’’t side with any political parties, whatever I observe that’s what I would tell, I observed that the health services implemented by the city is really improving), Joann said in an interview on how the administration of Mayor Darel Uy perform in terms of health services in the city.
Joann said the health services performed by the city is much improving, and even without the pandemic, she would still say it has improved a lot.
She recalls that at the height of the COVID-19, all of the medical frontliners in Barangay Sta. Isabel were provided with complete PPE’s and other medical supplies by the city government. Quarantined residents in the barangay facility could also avail the medical supplies like alcohol, soap, face masks, face shields from the city.
Attesting the remarks of BHW from a neighboring barangay, Care Andalahao, a nurse, and Dahlia Baytion, a midwife, both assigned at Sta. Filomena Health Center say that health services in the Dipolog has improved as compared to 3 years ago with the same mayor.
They both affirm that even if the punong barangay is not an ally of Mayor Darel Uy, at the height of the pandemic where all medical frontliners are busy and exhausted, the health center are provided with food stuffs especially with medical supplies and medicines.
Being the medical frontliners in the barangay, they said they are happy that the whole of barangay council are very supportive to all activities and programs of the health center.
They added that at present, political alliance is not an issue in the delivery of health services in the barangay, the city would always respond and provided medical supplies and medicines whenever the BHW’s requested.
Furthermore, from the most populated barangay of Dipolog City, Edsel Alaine M. Pagente, a nurse, assigned as head of Galas Barangay Health Center also prove that the health services, programs of the city is much improving in terms of providing medicines and medical supplies even to the improvement of the health center building.
The health center head expresses his observations as to how the city government supported the barangay health centers in their area of responsibility.
“Nag-improve gyud ang health services kay kon mangayo ko sa city, naa man gyud mga tambal, maintenance, antibiotics, syrups naa gyud, vaccines labi na gyud sa vaccine sa Covid-19 nag stock gyud ang city.” (The health services of the city is really improving because if I ask to them, they really have available medicines, maintenance, antibiotics, syrups, vaccines especially COVID-19 vaccines, they really have a lot in stock at the city). Pagente reliably said.
He added that the city really purchased the branded medicines and put in stock at the CHO, usually divide it for the 26 health centers the covering 21 barangays, in some cases, medicines that are not included on regular supplies can be requested at the CHO are also provided.
During the surge of COVID-19 in the city, Pagente also rendered his duty at the Corazon C. Aquino Hospital (CCAH) as an augmentation nurse since the hospital was understaffed, he observed that medicines and medical supplies are always available for use and said that every COVID-19 patient admitted to the hospital would recover, except those with comorbidity.
Pagente also acknowledge the full support of the Barangay Council of Galas especially the Punong Barangay in the conduct and implementation of medical programs to their constituents.
Comparing the health services in the city the past 3 years, Pagente would say that it improve in double to this days, citing that aside from stocks of medicines and medical supplies, the local government also purchased additional medical equipment in the city hospital (CCAH).
Another health worker from ‘Most Child Friendly Barangay’ awardee, Florefina T. Iran, Midwife II assigned as head of Olingan Barangay Health Center revealed that before the pandemic and up to present, their health center received medicines and supplies from the city but only limited.
“Naa ra man pod mi nadawat nga mga tambal ug supplies diri sa center apan kulang ra gyud kaayo kay daghan man mi residente diri sa Olingan.” (We also have received medicines and supplies here at the health center but it is much lacking as compared to the number of residents in Olingan) the midwife said. As of this year, Olingan has a population of 13,478.
During the surge of the Covid-19, BHW’s of Olingan also received from the city complete sets of PPE’s and medicines for immediate use against the virus, some unused items have been kept in case another surge will happen.
These are just few assertions of some individuals who has first hand information on health progress achieved by the city.
Being the capital of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Peninsula, the City of Dipolog is one of the many places in the country that is governed by so-called political dynasty. For almost three decades, the province is contested by two political family: Uy and Jalosjos, with Dipolog City having the most number of voters, in 2025 or for 27 straight years, the sitting mayor of the city is from one family – Uy.
The city is at number 54 in the latest Richest Cities in the Philippines with 146 cities, Lamitan City, part also of Zamboanga Peninsula is at number 146 while Dapitan City, another component city of Zamboanga del Norte and having a renowned world class resort is at number 145.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hits the Philippines, though it hit first the National Capital Region particularly Metro Manila, all parts of Mindanao anticipated its coming since the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that it has the capacity to spread rapidly as what is happening in other countries.
Like any other places, the City of Dipolog also has workers, businessmen and other travelling individuals coming in from Covid-19 virus infested places, its presence is the city is inevitable even stricter border checkpoints are in place. Especially so, that at the start of the spread of the virus, it took days or even weeks before it is confirmed that an individual is infected. Possible virus carrier coming in the city through the established border checkpoint could not be identified unless they manifest symptoms of the disease.
Dipolog owned and operated a level 1 hospital located at Barangay Biasong the Corazon C. Aquino Hospital (CCAH), with 50 beds capacity (General Ward) its medical services includes outpatient department, dental and HIV hub and proposed to be an eye center.
As some nearby cities in Mindanao experienced first the spread of COVID-19, the local government of Dipolog did not waste time, but on its own way created protocols, programs and possible strategies to mitigate the impacts and effects of the dreadful virus to the Dipolognons.
In January 2020, as part of preparation of the local government, Mayor Darel Dexter T. Uy, issued an Executive Order creating an Inter-Agency Task Force of the city (CIATF) that will focus on issues and concerns regarding the spread of the virus. EO No. 08-2020: “Creating and Immediately Activating the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases and for other Purposes”.
The following month, Mayor Uy presided over a meeting with city and provincial health officials, heads of offices and representatives from the World Health Organization and UNICEF at the conference room of the City Mayor’s Office on February 7, 2020 to discuss measures to contain the potential spread of COVID-19 in the city.
On March 2020, as COVID-19 cases is rising, the mayor issued another executive order that is EO No. 12-2020: “Activating the Incident Command System (ICS) and Creating Different Response Clusters Against COVID-19 in the City of Dipolog and for other Relevant Purposes.” The need for a systematic and well-coordinated response in the fight against the virus is the prime purpose of this EO.
The creation of the Dipolog Incident Command System (ICS) serves as the overall command and coordinating center for COVID response and operations. It is a one-stop shop for the management of Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs), Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs), Allowed Person Outside Residences (APORs).
The ICS is also the alternate Emergency Operations Center (EOC) since the main EOC of the Dipolog is located at the city hall, the ICS likewise is the conference venue, donation drop-off point, and other COVID-19 related purposes.
As the virus has already penetrated the urban barangays of Dipolog, the city through its City Inter Agency Task Force (CIATF) implemented its one of a kind ‘bubble set-up’.
A bubble setup applies to a cluster of people restricted from going in and out of a covered area unless they are authorized to do so.
It means that only authorized persons can do essential travel into and out of the city borders. The bubble set-up is different from a lockdown because most businesses remain operational; however, tighter restrictions are in place to control mobility for a given period.
As similarly provided in Resolution 104 of the National Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEIDs), in the bubble set-up, only the following Authorized Persons Outside the Residences (APORs) can get in and out of the bubble, but it is still subject to pertinent travel documentary requirements. They are essential workers with valid identification cards, health and emergency frontline service personnel, government officials on official business only, duly-authorized humanitarian assistance workers, persons traveling for humanitarian reasons, persons going to travel abroad, persons crossing zones/borders for work or business or going back home and Returning Overseas Filipinos and Overseas Filipino Workers.
At the bubble set-up, goods and cargoes shall remain unhampered pursuant to pertinent national directives, however the PNP assigned at the city borders has the authority to check and inspect the vehicles for violation of protocols and/or trafficking of unauthorized persons into the locality, it likewise has the authority to momentarily hold cargo and delivery vehicles should and when the consignee or establishment of destination is still closed or unavailable to avoid its personnel from loitering around the city.
Activities and establishments allowed at the ‘bubble set-up’ are restaurants, cafes and other food establishments are allowed subject to stricter protocols. Generally, no dine-in is allowed except it the establishment can implement the following features: customers shall be limited to 30%, of the venue capacity, diners shall be seated at least one seat apart, in a diagonal configuration, adoption of the Dipolog E-Pass as a digital contact-tracing application in lieu of the logbook, take-out and delivery services are highly encouraged, provided that minimum health standards are likewise strictly observed.
Health-inducing activities such as outdoor non-contact sports are allowed, but limited to not more than 10 persons in any given group. Athletic competitions, sporting events, and cockfighting are suspended. except as may be allowed by the National IATF.
Essential mass gatherings, including religious services, are subject to a maximum of 30% of the venue or seating capacity. However, social gatherings such as weddings, birthdays and baptisms be subject to the 30 persons maximum capacity but not exceed 100 persons. whichever is lower.
Resorts and other tourist spots shall likewise be subject to 30, operational capacity, but shall admit only guests and clients from within the bubble. Accredited hotels and pension houses may accept guests from outside the covered area provided they have prior coordination or acceptance from the Incident Command Post (ICP), and limited to indispensable travels only. Leisure travels, and other non-essential inbound and outbound trips are not allowed.
Other establishments may remain open, provided that they adopt the Dipolog E-Pass (powered by SafePass) and subject to observance of minimum health standards, except for the following: Casinos, billiard halls and other gambling places; Beer houses, karaoke bars, nightclubs and similar establishments whose primary business is the serving of alcoholic drinks; Kids amusement; such other public places as may be identified by the LGU Dipolog.
Another measure implemented is the ‘Oplan Sita Initiative’, this is where barangay officials, tanod, personnel from DILG, law inforcers and COVID-19 marshalls are roving every part of the city and barangays to enforce and apprehend violators of the minimum health and safety standards and local protocols.
Executive order No. 16, series of 2021, adopting Executive Order of the Province of Zamboanga del Norte and providing for simplified but more stringent guidelines, strategies and protocols to be implemented in the City of Dipolog.
To strengthen the quarantine and zoning containment efforts, the Dipolog City Risk Reduction and Management Office in coordination with the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit as well as the DILG contact tracers implemented the QR Tracer Wristbands for those who are undergoing home quarantine for easy monitoring.
In 2021, as the pandemic continues to spread, the city keeps on implementing measures against the further spread of the virus in the establishments around the city, it applies ‘Safety Seal Inspection & Verification’, on the 7th and 8th of July this year, the Safety Seal Inspection & verification Team conducted ocular inspection to the establishments who applied for the Safety Seal Certification.
The purpose for this inspection is to verify the establishments if they really followed the minimum health protocol as mandated on the Executive Order No. 19 Series of 2021.
This is followed by the ‘Conferment after Safety Seal Compliance’ conducted on July 13, 2021, Inspection Team led by Dipolog City Mayor Darel Dexter T. Uy conferred so far a total of 20 establishments with Safety Seal sticker and certification in Dipolog City.
In line with the national government’s campaign for mass vaccination, Dipolog also also did its part by the establishment of ‘Drive-Thru Vaccination’.
The local government of Dipolog, through the efforts of the City Health Office (CHO) in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH), started its pilot testing for Covid 19 Drive-Thru Vaccination on June 18 at the long stretch of Dipolog City Boulevard.
The prime purpose of the Drive-Thru is to vaccinate the A2 (Senior Citizen) and A3 (persons with comorbidities). A total of 895 individuals have availed of Drive-Thru Vaccination on its first day of pilot testing and has been gaining substantial turn-outs ever since.
Activation & Orientation of Muslim Covid-19 Task Force, last July 5, 2021, Atty. Arvin L. Bonbon the Incident Commander, together with the City Mayor Darel Dexter T. Uy, City Health Office (CHO) Sanitation/WASH-MDM Cluster, conducted an orientation and activation for Muslim Covid-19 Task Force for the management of the dead with a total of 11 volunteers from Muslim brothers in the city.
The said event that was held in 2nd floor of Incident Command Post, purposely to discuss regarding the burial of Muslim brothers and sisters with regards to their traditions, beliefs that will conform to the prevailing IATF protocols on management of the dead and disinfection among others.
Activation and orientation of Barangay Information Officers Network (BION), the City Government of Dipolog conducted an orientation for BION on July 13, 2021 at 9:00 in the morning at the 2nd Floor, Incident Command Post, this City. During the Orientation, Mayor Darel Dexter T. Uy reminded all Barangay Information Officers not to spread nor develop fake news, but instead, help to stop spreading fake news specifically in the social media.
The orientation stressed further purposely to help combat false information and fake news through proper information dissemination of prevailing protocols on contact tracing, proper quarantine and isolation procedures, Safety Seal guidelines, application and compliance procedures for business establishments at barangay level and the demand generation of vaccines specifically vaccination campaign for senior citizens in every barangay.
The local government also caused the publication of CDRRMO Weekly Vanguard Newsletter, the CDRRMO-Dipolog publishes a weekly newsletter to highlight latest information on weather updates, disaster preparedness activities, volcanological & seismological information, COVID-19 updates and other related information on national and local disasters and calamities, prevention & mitigation programs.
Production & posting of COVID-19 Infographics, aside from the newsletter, CDRRMO-Dipolog is also primarily involved in designing and producing its own infographics to complement information dissemination campaigns by concerned offices especially to elicit public compliance with our minimum health and safety protocols and restrictions.
ZNFePA CSO partnership thru MOA for the provision of recreational toys, instructional and reading materials @ Child-Friendly Space at the Isolation Facility in Olingan, Dipolog City, with the initiative from DepEd.
Memorandum of Agreement for Psychosocial Support for COVID-19 – entered into by and between the Philippine Guidance Counseling Association (PGCA-ZN) and the City Government of Dipolog for the establishment of a collaborative relationship in providing free psychosocial support services, online counseling and consultation in response to the mental health well-being of frontliners and the general public.
Strengthening Response for Mental Health Emergencies where orientations and seminars are conducted focusing on mental health awareness in coordination with the National Center for Mental Health.
Development of Mental Health Emergency Protocols for Cascading to Barangay DRRMC Level, Simulation on Exercise Design on Mental Health Emergency Response and Recovery, Mental Health Recovery Program, Hotline for Mental Health Emergencies.
Listo Centers in Dipolog City were also established with three Cluster System in Disaster Response dividing all 21 barangays into three; under Dipolog Listo Center Substation 1 (Punta Base) are barangays Olingan, Punta, Sinaman, Sangkol, San Jose, Cogon and Diwan.
Under Dipolog Listo Center Boulevard Station (Neptune Base) are barangays Galas, Sta. Filomena, Sta. Isabel, Central, Miputak, Turno and Gulayon while barangays Estaka, Biasong, Barra, Minaog, Sicayab, Dicayas, Lugdungan are under Dipolog Listo Center Substation 2 (Saturn Base).
As of August 26, 2022, Dipolog City has seven active cases of COVID-19, recorded a total of 3,033 confirmed cases, 2,876 confirmed recovered and 150 confirmed died from the virus.
For the vaccination program of 70% target population that reaches 94,793 individuals, as of August 25, 2022 Dipolog City with 192 daily jabs has fully vaccinated 101,419 individuals or 107.0% of the target. 22.0% of the target population or 20,842 has given the booster shots, while 1.9% or 1,808 individuals have received the 2nd booster shots.
As of August 30, 2022, the city has recorded a total confirmed case of COVID-19 with 3,044 the highest in the whole province, 150 confirmed died, with a total recovery of 2,893 and only 1 active case.
Dipolog City has placed under Alert Level 1 by the Provincial IATF for the period September 1-15.
Recently, Mayor Uy issued an statement of support for the PinasLakas Program of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
The mayor stresses that the Covid-19 Pandemic has been a great challenge to all in the past two years and this unprecedented situation has drastically affected daily lives of every Dipolognon. It has brought many difficulties and inconveniences even the fear of lives. However, Dipolognons have proven our ability to continue to move forward and face the crisis head-on.
Uy continued that the imposition of community quarantine measures, vaccination drives, along with various programs of the government for Covid-19 response and intervention has taken all Dipolognon closer to the new normal. Indeed, with all the collective efforts of the government, various stakeholders and the community, Dipolognons are now in a better position to fight against Covid19. The City Government of Dipolog has always been committed in supporting the programs of the national government in eradicating the effects of the pandemic and we recognize the value of vaccination drives and give support in attaining the said goal.
“We hereby stand in full support of the PinasLakas Program of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., as we have dedicated our resources to the mobilization of our health care personnel in making available and accessible Covid-19 vaccines not only to Dipolognons but also to the people of neighboring cities and municipalities, we likewise faithfully pledge our commitment to this campaign”, Mayor Uy added.
“We are in strong belief that this administration’s goal of maintaining an immunity wall against Covid-19 will be as effective, if not more successful than the Covid-19 responses done in the past two years. We encourage every eligible individual, especially our senior citizens to get vaccinated and boosted. We likewise remind everyone to continue observing the minimum public health standards. Together, let us pave our way to full recovery.” Uy concluded.
For more than two years already, remarkable results varies in different LGUs in terms of their responses to the pandemic, but the local government of Dipolog has done its best in its fight against the impacts of COVID-19 virus and continues to make the city responsive to any health threats onward.
On the other hand, Florefina of Olingan Barangay Health Center explicit their dismay over the delayed release of their allowance as public healthcare workers, along with all the 15 BHW’s in the center where 11 of them got positive of COVID-19 virus but luckily treated and survived.
They know from the national news that funds for the allowances they have waited for are already appropriated by the national government, but they questioned, where’s the money now?
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in their website posted that for this year 2022, DBM has released P1.081 billion to the Department of Health (DOH) for the grant of sickness and death benefits to public and private healthcare workers (HCWs) and non-HCWs in health facilities who contracted or may contract COVID-19 in line of their duty.
Specifically, HCWs and non-HCWs who contracted mild or moderate Covid-19 infection will receive a compensation of P15,000.00 while those who fall under the severe or critical case will be compensated for P100,000.00.
Like other health workers all over the nation who have to received their financial support yet, 11 BHW’s of Olingan expresses their concerns about the delays in receiving their allowances that it would be of great help for their families to have the allowances and that they are praying for its release the soonest possible time.
(This story is part of the journalism fellowship of the Philippine Press Institute under the auspices of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.)