‘Coronavirus-free’ town in Batangas protests preparations for an isolation facility

Tina Ganzon-Ozaeta
‘Coronavirus-free’ town in Batangas protests preparations for an isolation facility
It's a project of the Batangas Provincial Government that angered many residents of Ibaan town. Mayor Joy Salvame says no coordination was made with the municipal government before preparations began in Barangay Malainin.

BATANGAS, Philippines – Ibaan town Mayor Joy Salvame protested ongoing preparations to turn an evacuation center within the town into an isolation facility for confirmed coronavirus cases in Batangas province. 

It’s a project of the provincial government that angered residents. Ibaan is one of 16 municipalities in Batangas that so far has no known cases of coronavirus.  

Salvame said the Batangas provincial government did not coordinate with the municipal government before work began on the evacuation facility in Barangay Malainin. It used to host residents affected by the eruption of Taal volcano. 

“Plain common sense should tell us that it is a big health risk if we will open our COVID-free municipality to infected patients. That defeats the purpose of the word enhanced in ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). Infection should not be allowed to wander from one town to another. We’re not stopping risk if that’s the case. We’re spreading it,” Salvame said.

“It might be true that it is a provincial property, but they have the obligation to inform the local government who has local jurisdiction [over the area], which they failed to do so since it was constructed, when it was used as an evacuation center, and until now,” Salvame said. 

Salvame vowed to protect the interests of her town. 

Mixed messages

The issue erupted on Sunday, April 12, when Batangas provincial board member Bart Blanco posted on his Facebook account a video showing ongoing work in the isolation facility that he said was spearheaded by the governor. 

Ito po ay ginastusan ng ating Kapitolyo at karamihan dito ay na-realign ang budget para ilagay dito. Sa ngayon 50 po yung ating pasyente na pwedeng ilagay dito. Anytime basta mag-go na ang ating gobernador. Hindi na mahihirapan ang ating mga ospital dahil gumagalaw po talaga ang ating Provincial Health Office dahil yan po ang kagustuhan ng ating gobernador.” Blanco said in the video that has since been taken down. 

(The Provincial Capitol was able to allocate funds for this facility after realigning the budget. The facility can accommodate up to 50 patients. It’s only waiting for the go signal of the governor. This will help our hospitals. It shows that the Provincial Health Office is doing its job based on the orders of the governor.)

The video also showed Inter-Agency Task Force chief Dr. Gerald Alday saying the facility was awaiting certification from the Department of Health and Philhealth.

A day later, on April 13, Salvame said she had spoken with Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas who promised her that construction will be stopped and the project will be reviewed. She said it will not proceed without the consent of the residents. 

Despite the supposed assurance from the governor, however, a new video emerged ton Tuesday, April 14, showing Calabarzon regional police director Vicente Danao and Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste visiting the same facility. 

Tempers flew among residents of Ibaan again. 

In a text message to reporters, Mandanas said the facility in Barangay Malainin is one of the proposed isolation areas that the provincial government submitted to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for approval. 

“DILG has directed all LGUs, including Batangas, to designate isolation areas. We submitted in writing our designated areas that may qualify with some technical improvements and appropriate facilities. The Provincial Government of Batangas Evacuation Area in Malainin is included. Our policy is to comply with directives from national government. However, not included in the directive is to operate. So, in compliance with DILG, PGB will let DOH improve, furnish, staff and operate the isolation areas they will accredit,” Mandanas said. 

Mandanas said the provincial government did not spend for the facility because the tents and portalets were provided when the facility was used as evacuation area.

The facility was originally constructed become a provincial detention and rehabilitation center. – Rappler.com 

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.