By Marie Tonette Marticio
TACLOBAN CITY – With nine of the Eastern Visayas region’s 13 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) coming from his town, the mayor of Tarangnan, Samar is seeking the help of national and provincial officials in addressing the scourge brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Arnel Tan said nearly the whole municipal government has been paralyzed, with all its 41 barangays now under lockdown, and a huge number of its health workers, including himself and his wife, under isolation because of suspected exposure to COVID-19.
“Medyo mahirap ang sitwasyon namin dito dahil kulang kami sa tao, kulang din kami sa supply dito. Kaya humihingi ako ng tulong sa mga nakatataas sa pamahalaan pati na rin sa mga pribadong kumpanya o personalidad na mayroong natitirang tulong na pwedeng ibigay sa amin. Kailangan namin dito ng tubig, pagkain, gamot at gatas,” he lamented.
(Our situation is hard here because we lack the manpower, we lack the supply here. That’s why I am asking for help from our leaders in government, and private companies and individuals, if they could spare us some help. We need water, food, medicine and milk)
Tan underscored their need for a more stable water supply, especially now that it is the dry season.
He also asked for the assistance of the national government because, aside from dwindling funds, the municipal government has been having a hard time procuring the needs of the people because they could not even cross to the next town.
“Sa ngayon hindi kami makapasok sa borders ng mga kalapit-bayan namin. Kahit sabihin nila na hindi discrimination ‘yung ginagawa nila o ‘yung intention nila, ‘yun talaga ‘yung mafifeel namin kasi wala naman kaming ibang mapupuntahan maliban sa mga city o bayan na kalapit namin. ‘Yung nangyayari kasi parang ayaw na nila kaming maka-interact. Kahit nga ‘yung mga barangay na malalayo na sa amin nagiging problema din ‘yung pagbili nila ng mga essential goods,” he said.
(As of now, we are not allowed in towns adjacent to ours. Even if they say that they are not discriminating against us, that’s what they’ve been doing or intend to do to us. That’s what we really feel because we can’t go elsewhere except to these towns near us. What’s happening is that it’s like they don’t want to interact with us. Even barangays that are far away are still having problems buying essential goods)
Tarangnan has seven active COVID-19 cases, three of which have been admitted to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) in Tacloban City but are in stable condition. Four are at the Tarangnan Community Hospital either with mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.
Tan said they have been giving out relief goods since March, and have already utilized the town’s savings from last year, including their quick response fund (QRF) and calamity fund to provide a sack of rice, noodles, and canned goods to 6,900 families.
And what they are spending now is the remainder of the town’s Bayanihan fund worth P8.9 million.
“Hindi pa din namin alam kung hanggang kailan ang pagkalat ng virus dito kaya naghahanda na lang din kami kahit may kaunti pa kaming stock dito. Dahan-dahan naming iniipon para maski tumagal man mayroon kaming maipapamigay sa mga tao,” he said.
(We don’t know up to when this virus will spread. That’s why we’re also preparing even if our stocks are low. We are slowly saving up on what we have so that we could somehow give something to the people)
According to Tan, part of the local government’s mounting challenge was ensuring the delivery of basic health services to over 25,000 residents of said town.
Tarangnan Community Hospital, the only hospital in the municipality, is now being utilized as an isolation facility for COVID-19-related cases, and is no longer accepting other patients.
And those that cannot be accommodated have to be brought to the Samar Provincial Hospital.
Worse, Tan said the town only had one ambulance.
“We are having difficulties in passing the borders. There are even instances that we are told to go back. Dapat may kaunting consideration kasi naka-state naman sa directive ng DILG at sa national na kapag emergency at delivery of basic goods dapat unhampered ‘yung pagpasok nila,” he said.
Tan said he could not prevent the fishermen from fishing, but they are not allowed to sell their fish outside the municipality.
“Hindi talaga maiiwasan na mayroong mangingisda pero ‘yung mahuhuli nila hindi na pwedeng ibenta sa ibang lugar, pagkain na lang sa bawat pamilya. Nililimitahan din natin ang paglabas ng tao sa mga barangay,” he said.
(You can’t avoid that they go fishing. But whatever they catch, they can’t sell in other places and they just consume these within their families. We also limit the exit of those from the barangay)