Cotabato province placed under ‘preemptive lockdown’

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 18 Mar) – Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco has placed under “preemptive lockdown” all entry and exit points in the province starting Wednesday until April 14.

Catamco issued Executive Order Number 2020-021 around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, hours after her meeting with the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 at the capitol.

Catamco, in her latest order, clarified  that the implementation of a preemptive lockdown in the province was in accordance with the Presidential Proclamation Number 922 that President Duterte earlier issued, which placed the nation under a state of national health emergency.

The preemptive lockdown order prohibits all non-residents of the province from entering the area, except those who are involved in the delivery of basic goods and services; those who transport foods, medical supplies, and other basic commodities; those working within the province; and those passing through the province.

They are, however, ordered to subject themselves to health protocols and security measures, the governor said.

All tourists, visitors, and guests are also prohibited from entering any tourist spots in the province.

The governor also ordered the closure of all business establishments, except the public markets, supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drug stores, agricultural supply stores, veterinary service establishments, hardware, food preparation delivery services, water refilling stations, banks, business process outsourcing establishments, money transfer services, power, energy, and telecommunication facilities.

Catamco’s order included the strict prohibition of all public gatherings, such as religious, sports, cultural, and other social gatherings.

She added that personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection, and medical practitioners who are stationed in the province of Cotabato for the prevention of spread of COVID-19 shall be on a 24/7 alert status.

In the capitol, the governor said that the provincial government shall observe a four-day workweek scheme, provided that basic government services will not be disrupted. Also, online transactions and online meetings in relation to government activities shall be used as alternative work modes.

Travels of provincial employees outside the province shall be prohibited except for those vital in the operation of the province.

Catamco stressed that non-compliance with the executive order “shall be dealt with in accordance with the existing and applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

On March 16, the governor issued Executive Orders 16 and 17 as initial response to threats on COVID-19.

She cited Section 15 of the Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, which provided her and the local government officials powers necessary to promote health and safety.

Dr. Phil Malaluan, Cotabato second district board member, said that as of March 17, the province has more than 50 persons under monitoring. Three of them manifested mild flu-like symptoms and are ordered to stay home for the 14-day mandatory self-quarantine.

Included in the PUMs was a returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who traveled back to her hometown in President Roxas via Philtranco after the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was closed for air travels. The Task Force on COVID-19 in the province said they already tracked down the OFW and was found in a barangay in nearby Matalam town, also in North Cotabato.

In Kidapawan City, healthcare personnel of the City Health Office had already traced the whereabouts of a Chinese national and his Filipina girlfriend who arrived in the area a few days ago. City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CDRMM) Officer Psalmer Bernalte said such Chinese national and his fiancée were found in a lodging house in the city and were told to remain in their place while undergoing quarantine. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)