COVID-19 disrupts town hall services, delivery of learning modules in SouthCot gold-rush town

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 13 Oct) – The municipal hall of the gold-rich town of T’boli in South Cotabato province was ordered shut down while the distribution of learning materials for public schools was suspended for five days due to the growing threats of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the locality.

T’boli, South Cotabato. Map courtesy of Google

T’boli Mayor Dibu Tuan ordered municipal employees to work from home and the public school teachers to focus on the reproduction instead of distribution of learning modules beginning Monday until Friday, October 16, to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

As of Monday evening, T’boli has 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 12 recoveries and nine active cases.

Of the nine active cases, seven are in Barangay Poblacion, where the municipal hall is located, and one each in Barangay Edwards and Kematu, the latter the site of gold mining operations, including the Minahang Bayan or the 21-hectare people’s small-scale mining area.

“The temporary closure of the municipal hall will permit the health authorities to make the necessary decontamination of the local offices at the same time giving due course to the ongoing tracking activities,” Tuan said.

He stressed that the employees will be required to submit an accomplishment report upon their return to their respective offices.

Exempted from the work from home setup are employees rendering health services, communication, peace and order, and disaster management.

Besides the rising threats posed by COVID-19, the heavy rains in the past few days that damaged roads prompted the mayor’s office to also order the temporary suspension of the distribution of learning modules to the communities, also for five days.

This is to ensure the safety of the teachers as well as the students in as much as the local government is taking efforts for the necessary road rehabilitation activities at the same time giving due course to the ongoing tracking of COVID-19 infections by local health authorities, Tuan said.

“With this ample time, the teachers may instead spend the week for the reproduction or printing of their education materials,” he stressed.

T’boli, particularly Barangay Kematu, has been a known gold rush site since the early 1980s, attracting small-scale miners from the Davao Region and elsewhere in Mindanao in search for better lives.

Last year, the town banned the use of mercury in the processing of gold ores due to its adverse health and environmental impacts.

Jewelry-making is the “one town, one product” offering of T’boli town. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)