Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday, June 20, said her office is prepared to extend a hand to the Bicol region once the local government unit (LGU) there agree to coordinate with them about the rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospital utilization rate.
Robredo, who hails from Naga City, agreed that Bicol region is now an area of concern because it doesn’t have the health care facilities of other major cities such as those in the National Capital Region (NCR), Davao, and Cebu.
“Kami closely minomonitor namin. Kausap namin lagi iyong medical community. Naghihintay lang kami ng response ng LGU dun sa aming sulat. Nag-express kami ng willingness to bring the program there. Kami, anytime, ready kami (We are closely monitoring it. We are always in talks with the medical community. We are just waiting for the response from the LGU to our letter. We expressed our willingness to bring the program there. We are ready anytime),” she said during her weekly radio show over dzXL.
Robredo was referring to the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) COVID-19 response programs that include livelihood projects, a free mobile antigen testing called Swab Cab, and the free telemedical consultation called the Bayanihan E-Konsulta.
Just recently, the OVP also partnered with the City Government of Manila for the Jab Cab, which will bring the government’s vaccination program to tricycle drivers and vendors, among others.
The vice president admitted that there is a disagreement between the LGU and the medical community in Bicol.
The medical community there wants to put the entire region under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which is the strictest quarantine restriction. This will allow only medical frontliners to go out of their homes.
But the LGU disagrees because it doesn’t have the budget to provide cash aid or assistance to the residents. Robredo also explained that the number of cases in Legaspi and Naga, which have the most cases, are still lower compared to other areas in the country.
“Pero iyong problema sa Bicol kaya may anxiety iyong medical groups kasi konti ang aming hospitals beds kumpara sa NCR, Cebu, Davao. So ngayon, punuan na (The problem with Bicol which is the reason why the medical groups have anxiety is we have only a few hospital beds compared to NCR, Cebu, Davao. Now, it’s filling up fast),” she said.
Data from the Department of Health (DOH) from June 10 to 16 showed that the average number of cases in Bicol region is 239. This is up by 8 percent from the week before. The positivity rate is also high at 23.9 percent.
This led medical groups in the region to warn of an India-like scenario despite the DOH tracker showing that the hospital utilization rate there is only at 60 percent to 70 percent.
Robredo said Bicol-based doctors told her this was “not representative” of the scenario on the ground.
“Hindi pa naman ganoon (India) iyong sitwasyon. Pero ayaw nilang dumating sa ganoon. So, gusto nilang maaga na preventive na (The situation is not like in India. But they don’t want it to go that way. So, they want to be preventive),” she added.