Provinces must learn from Metro Manila's virus experience, says NEDA

The National Economic and Development Authority says food supply chain problems, health personnel walking to work, and inadequate facilities can be avoided by planning better

Ralf Rivas

Published: 4:55 PM March 30, 2020

Updated: 4:56 PM March 30, 2020

NEDA CHIEF. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia. Rappler screenshot

MANILA, Philippines – Disrupted supply chains, health personnel struggling to report for work, and lack of health facilities are just some of Metro Manila's problems as it faces the coronavirus pandemic.

The capital region serves as a cautionary tale to local government units (LGUs) across the country.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has one appeal to these LGUs: Plan better.

In NEDA's recently released report, it outlined steps that LGUs can do to prevent the spread of infection and ensure that essential services are still delivered. (READ: TIMELINE: 1st confirmed COVID-19 cases in provinces, cities, towns in the Philippines)

"Extensive monitoring and health surveillance systems need to be undertaken to build the knowledge base, so that prevention, management, and treatment can be improved. LGUs can help in the conduct of these systems," said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

As of Monday, March 30, the Department of Health reported 1,546 coronavirus cases in the Philippines. Most cases are from Metro Manila.

These are some of the steps that LGUs can take:

Early detection and testing, effective quarantine systems, and management and treatment of cases

Pernia said translating the guidelines of the inter-agency task force into the local dialect can help improve information dissemination.

Ban on travel and crowded gatherings, school closures, flexible work arrangements, limits on business operations, and work suspension

NEDA said LGUs may issue special passes for trucks delivering essential goods and designate special highway lanes.

The planning agency also called on LGUs to prepare for the implementation of a social amelioration program aimed at mitigating the impact of work suspensions on the poor and vulnerable. Preparations include coming up with a registry of the poor and vulnerable households in their respective areas.

NEDA also encouraged LGUs to set up a system to manage the receiving and deploying of donations and resources coming from individuals and organizations. (READ: LIST: How to help health care workers, frontliners during coronavirus pandemic)

Short-term augmentation of health facilities and human resources

Pernia urged LGUs to put up temporary outpatient consultation facilities outside of hospitals. 

"LGUs can expedite the issuance of permits to facilitate the local production and delivery of the needed materials for the construction of these facilities," he said.  

"Consultations for respiratory problems and fever should be done at these temporary facilities. If the LGU is able, a testing laboratory can be set up, subject to biosafety standards."

Pernia added that public school facilities can be an option, subject to the guidelines set by the Department of Education.

"We count on all LGUs...to help us in brainstorming innovative ideas, and in implementing these interventions, to curb the spread of the disease in the regions," he said. – Rappler.com