Yearender: Manila revitalized amid COVID pandemic

Published December 31, 2020, 2:02 PM

by Minka Klaudia Tiangco

When the country’s first COVID-19 patient was reported to be confined in a hospital in Manila in January, the city government was forced to postpone its 2020 plans and lead its people amid uncertain times.


But despite the various challenges brought by the pandemic, 2020 will go down in Manila’s history as a year marked with achievements and redevelopment projects.

The first few months of 2020 was dedicated to strengthening the city’s healthcare system with more workers, better facilities and equipment, and a more inclusive and compassionate approach to patients.

After the national government eased enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) restrictions, the city government proceeded with its original plans to transform the once filthy capital city into a clean, green, and beautiful window to the country.

Pandemic response

Last March, when the total number of cases in the country was only at double digits, the city government opened the Manila Infectious Disease Control Center (MIDCC), a facility on the 10th floor of the Sta. Ana Hospital exclusive for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The city government opened two molecular testing laboratories, where patients can get reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests for COVID-19, in the hospital last June and September.

At the onset of the pandemic, Manila turned to rapid testing in a bid to identify confirmed COVID-19 patients quicker. But in July, it instead used serology testing machines, that processes blood samples and are said to have an accuracy rate of 99.6 percent.

Two drive-thru serology testing facilities were opened in front of the Andres Bonifacio Monument near the Manila City Hall and at the Quirino Grandstand.

Five walk-in testing centers were set up at Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center, Justice Jose Abad Santos General Hospital, Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center, Ospital ng Sampaloc, and Ospital ng Tondo.

COVID-19 testing, whether RT-PCR or serology testing, is free for everyone in Manila, in line Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso’s policy of implementing an inclusive approach in battling the deadly disease.

Public market vendors, public transportation drivers, and hotel, restaurant, and mall employees were given priority in the city’s mass swab testing.

Domagoso also ordered the purchase of 2,000 Remdesivir vials, an antiviral drug, after news of its effectivity to speed up recovery among patients was reported.

The city government began opening various quarantine facilities to isolate probable and suspected patients and to unclog hospitals that were heavily burdened with thousands of confirmed cases.

There are now at 14 isolation facilities in Manila – T. Paez Quarantine Facility, P. Gomez Quarantine Facility, C. Arellano Quarantine Facility, Dapitan Quarantine Facility, Bacood Quarantine Facility, Tondo Sports Complex Quarantine Facility, Patricia Sports Complex Quarantine Facility;

Araullo Quarantine Facility, Tondo Quarantine Facility, G. Del Pilar Quarantine Facility, Gen. Gregorio del Pilar Quarantine Facility, Manuel L. Quezon University Quarantine Facility, San Andres Sports Complex Quarantine Facility, and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Quarantine Facility.

Hard lockdowns were implemented in areas with high number of COVID-19 cases, particularly in Sampaloc and Tondo District 1, to curb the spread of infection.

To help residents observe minimum health protocols, as well as provide a source of livelihood for displaced workers, the city government hired sewers and master cutters to create up to one million washable face masks to be distributed to each household in the city.

The city government doled out financial and food assistance to Manila residents, from displaced public transportation drivers, public school teachers, and public school students, among others. Each household also received at least P1,000 financial assistance and relief packs.

Each person in Manila was ensured shelter amid the pandemic. Amid travel restrictions, Domagoso ordered all hotels, motels, and dormitories in the city to lodge health workers. The city government rescued street dwellers and stranded persons on the city streets and cared for them at the city government’s quarantine facilities.

With the suspension of face-to-face classes, the city government distributed P1-billion worth of gadgets and connectivity devices to public school teachers and students.

Now, the capital city is readying its immunization plan as several vaccines around the world await approval from authorities. The city government earmarked P250 million for an initial purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. Domagoso recently met Pfizer officials to express his readiness to buy the pharmaceutical company’s vaccines once it gets approved.

Redevelopment, public projects

Domagoso’s dream has always been to make the City of Manila clean, green, and a worthy tourist destination and to build infrastructures, such as housing, for public use.

Following the rehabilitation of the Andres Bonifacio Monument Park in 2019, the city government partnered with several national government agencies to install Capiz lights around Intramuros. Then it opened a musical dancing fountain and unveiled a fragment of the historic Berlin Wall as added attractions in the park.

On August, the city government opened the newly rehabilitated Lagusnilad underpass that features colorful murals depicting the country’s history, photos of Manila’s tourist spots, signages with Baybayin scripts, vertical gardens, and non-slip tiles.

A few months later, it launched Kapetolyo, a two-story coffee shop that serves local coffee and pastries and is operated by the city government, at the Andres Bonifacio Monument Park.

The iconic Manila Clock Tower donned a new look after it was painted golden. The Manila mayor said they aimed to make the structure a symbol of hope amid turbulent times brought by the pandemic.

Anda Circle, another historical monument, was spruced up with fresh paint, colorful lights, and a fountain.

The city government also built the Baseco Baywalk, with recycled bricks and lamp posts, to give the poor families in Baseco Compound a place to stroll.

Its latest project is a rainbow pedestrian lane on Roxas Boulevard that Domagoso hopes to serve as a symbol of support for the LGTBQ+ (lesbian, gay, transexual, bisexual, and queer) community. Earlier, he approved the LGBTI+ Anti-Discrimination Ordinance and the Gender and Development Code, to promote equality among all genders and protect Manila residents from discrimination.

Domagoso signed an ordinance declaring Arroceros Forest Park, dubbed as the city’s “last lung,” as a permanent forest park. The park earlier faced threats of having a gymnasium built on it during the previous administration.

Hundreds of streetlamps and solar studs now illuminate Roxas Boulevard, España Boulevard, and Taft Ave. as the city government implements its street lighting project. This was done to make the city’s streets safer for both pedestrians and motorists.

After his controversial order to ban street vending on Ilaya St. in Divisoria, Domagoso led the opening of 100 metal vending stalls powered by electricity in the area. The Manila mayor said he wanted to give street vendors a “dignified” place to sell their goods for an affordable price. Vendors will only have to pay P40 per day for staying at their new stalls.

The city government has broken ground for several projects and many of them are expected to finish construction in 2021.

In line with his “Land for the Landless” program and “Build Build Manila” project, the Manila mayor led the groundbreaking ceremonies for Tondominiums 1 and 2, Binondominium, and Basecommunity, four public housing projects that can shelter the poor.

The city government also broke ground for the Manila Muslim Cemetery – an exclusive burial ground for the deceased Muslim residents of the city, the 10-story Bagong Ospital ng Maynila, and the redeveloped Manila Zoo.

It is also planning to build a 10-story campus for the Rosauro Almario Elementary School.