DAVAO CITY, Philippines – North Cotabato residents who fled their villages due to a series of strong earthquakes which started in October 2019 have been ordered to return to their homes to prevent the coronavirus disease from spreading.
North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco signed Executive Order No. 23 on Wednesday, March 18, which aims to decongest various evacuation centers in the province of occupants.
Catamco said “thousands” of people remained in evacuation centers for more than 4 months since the earthquakes struck and the concept of social distancing was impossible to observe.
She also pointed out cleanliness in evacuation centers was hardly being observed, which makes those staying there vulnerable to illnesses, including COVID-19.
North Cotabato hosts major evacuation centers in the towns of Makilala, Tulunan and Mlang and Kidapawan City, and satellite camps in adjoining areas. (READ: North Cotabato implements ‘pre-emptive’ lockdown)
Catamco clarified that evacuees who do not have homes to return to are exempted from the order.
“Those living in evacuation areas can return to their original homes if the earthquake had not damaged these and that the same had been declared safe for occupancy. If evacuees cannot return to their original homes, they will remain in evacuation centers but they must follow things that will help prevent COVID-19 such as proper hand wash and cleaning of the environment,” she added.
Catamco said the provincial disaster prevention office and the provincial social welfare office had already been directed to assist residents in returning to their villages.
In the Davao Region, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte issued more directives to stem the spread of the virus.
Sara, who chairs both the regional development council and the peace and order council, had banned the serving of liquor starting at 5 p.m.
She also ordered malls to shut down their shops except those pertaining to food and medicines, banking and finance, and call centers.
Sara also partially lifted a ban on flights in and out of the Davao International Airport for cargo, medical evacuation, and other necessities but maintained the ban on passenger flights, except for incoming flights aimed at repatriating expatriates.
She also signed an order for a regionwide curfew starting from 9 pm to 5 am.
Exempted are those working in public markets and supermarkets, convenience stores, hospitals, drugstores and delivery of food and other essential items.
“Media personnel; persons transiting to and from work, provided they shall present necessary identification and certificate of employment, are also exempted,” she added.
In Davao del Sur, Governor Douglas Cagas had ordered a “No Face Mask, No Entry” policy inside the Davao del Sur provincial capitol compound in Barangay Matti in Digos City.
In Davao Occidental, Governor Claude Bautista said checkpoints should be manned by a composite team of policemen, soldiers, health personnel and barangay tanods. – Rappler.com