Lockdown starts in South Cotabato; P34.7-M allotted to fight COVID-19

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 21 March) — South Cotabato closed its borders to non-residents starting Saturday as it allotted P34.7 million to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the area.

Through Executive Order 18 Series of 2020, Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., however, assured those transporting food and other essential consumer supplies unhampered entry to the province to ensure enough supply for the lockdown that will last for 14 days, or until April 6, 2020.

Those transporting food and other essential supplies will be given special fast lanes without the stringent checking accorded by those manning the checkpoints on private vehicles, he said.

South Cotabato. Map courtesy of Google

Only those who are involved in the medical, peace and order, rescue, COVID-19 prevention interventions, civil servants, media, public utilities and those seeking immediate medical attention are allowed to enter and go out of the province, he said.

“I am apologizing if this decision to lockdown the province is disrupting our public lives, but this is one of the major solutions to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our province,” Tamayo told reporters.

Residents of South Cotabato who will go out on non-essential travels shall be allowed to return home after undergoing a 14-day quarantine period,  he said.

During the 14-day lockdown, public transport services such as buses, vans, jeepneys and tricycles are suspended, Tamayo ordered.

Koronadal City Mayor Eliordo Ogena  initially defied the order on the suspension of tricycle operations, saying the city government does not have enough funds to assist the 8,000 drivers that would be displaced by Tamayo’s order.

But on Saturday afternoon, Ogena posted on his Facebook page that tricyles will be banned for the safety of residents, noting “we need to follow the directive of the national government.”

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved in a special session on Friday P34.7 million requested by Tamayo to fund the public health emergency management program of the province for COVID-19.

Malls were allowed to operate only their grocery and pharmacy sections while cockfights, small town lottery and lotto operations and other forms of recreational activities and gambling were ordered suspended during the 14-day lockdown.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido, South Cotabato health officer, said the province remains free of COVID-19 as of Friday, although there were 2,233 persons under monitoring and  22 persons under investigation (PUI) in the area.

The surge in the number of PUMs was largely due to the return of residents from Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon following the enhance community quarantine ordered recently by President Duterte, as well as the return of overseas Filipino workers from countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

One PUI died in Koronadal, the provincial capital and seat of government of Soccsksargen (Region 12), while awaiting results of swab samples sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City in the National Capital Region. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)