"ABIG" PANGASINAN. The provincial government's Abig (heal) Pangasinan caters not only to helping micro small and medium enterprises, farmers, among others, but also provides health care services to Pangasinenses. Different national government agencies, the provincial government of Pangasinan, and the local government units have come together this year to cushion the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) to the Pangasinenses. (Photo courtesy of Province of Pangasinan Facebook page)

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Different national government agencies, the provincial government of Pangasinan, and the local government units in the area have come together this year to cushion the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) to the Pangasinenses.

In an interview on Wednesday, Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief, Dr. Anna Ma. Teresa De Guzman said the provincial government’s approach to the pandemic was comprehensive.

“Governor Amado Espino III immediately formed the provincial Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) at the onset of the pandemic. His strategy was consultative and he takes seriously the expertise of the people around him,” she said.

De Guzman said the provincial government uses the FIT3RP (Find, Isolate, Test, Treat, Trace, Reintegrate, and Prevention) strategy in the fight against Covid-19.

“We have set up isolation facilities in the 14 provincial government-run hospitals and the Burgos Halfway House, which was originally built to cater to surrenderers in the province was made into an isolation facility. A halfway house was also set up in Sta. Barbara town for front-liners and government employees,” she said.

Each local government units (LGUs) of towns and cities in the province have also set up their own isolation facilities as per the recommendation of the provincial IATF.

A new isolation facility at the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital (PPH) intended to cater to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases patients are also underway.

The first phase of the construction of the isolation facility will be funded by the Department of Health (DOH)- Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) worth PHP10 million.

“The additional isolation facility will have 28 beds and five wards on its first floor and 12 isolation rooms on its second floor,” de Guzman said.

She added the isolation facilities of the provincial government and the local government units are still sufficient, but the new isolation facility is an augmentation.

The provincial government has also hired additional medical technologists for the province’s molecular laboratory.

“The molecular lab is already functional as the license to operate from the DOH has already been released. We are just processing the requirements for the Philippine Health Insurance so that the fee for the tests of Pangasinenses will not be burdensome to them,” she said.

Prior to having its own molecular lab, the provincial government has partnered with Baguio General Hospital for the daily processing of swab samples.

De Guzman said the DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government have hired new contact tracers to boost the campaign against Covid-19 in Pangasinan.

She added that due to these efforts mortality rate in Pangasinan is at 0.0037 percent in connection with its three million population and 4.15 percent in consideration of its 2,677 confirmed cases, while recovery is at 85 to 87 percent.

Strong agri output

Pangasinan is one of the rice-producing provinces in the country has produced over one million metric tons this year amid the pandemic, according to the Provincial Agriculture Office.

In an interview Wednesday, provincial agriculturist Dalisay Moya said despite the typhoons that have hit the province, the production of rice was not affected.

“We were not hardly-hit by typhoons but our farmers struggle with the price although they are now recovering and the provincial government and the Department of Agriculture (DA) have come up with programs to help the farmers,” she said.

The DA, Moya said, has provided financial assistance, seed and fertilizer assistance, as well as mechanization to the farmers in the province through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

The provincial government has launched the Abig (heal) Pangasinan livelihood project to improve the socio-economic condition in the province amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The livelihood project is divided into two components --Kabuhayan Palengke Karaban, and the Karagdagang Pangkabuhayan (Cash for Work).

Kabuhayan Palengke Karaban is an all-year activity to uplift the income of Pangasinense farmers, fisherfolks, and animal farm growers. The provincial government will buy products offered by small vendors, such as vegetables, meat, and others. All sold commodities from this program will be brought to the 14 provincial government-run hospitals to be served as meals for patients.

The Karagdagang Pangkabuhayan aims to provide additional financial capacity to different sectors by working on a community project that would benefit the public, particularly persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Local economic recovery

The economy of Pangasinan is improving following the opening of business establishments after the month-long lockdown, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provincial office said.

In an interview on Wednesday, DTI Pangasinan provincial director Natalia Dalaten said based on their assessment, 80 percent to 90 percent of establishments are now open after the Inter-Agency Task Force gave go signal to businesses classified under Category 3 such as saloon, spa, tutorial centers, and others.

Dalaten said there are also new businesses that opened, such as those engaged in trading and food, amid the pandemic based on their data on business name registration.

The DTI-Pangasinan had assisted micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through the Livelihood Seeding Program Pangkabuhayan sa Pagbangon at Ginhawa (PPG) and the Negosyo, Serbisyo sa Barangay (NSB).

DTI has covered 43 LGUs in Pangasinan or 243 barangays with 398 clients and has turned over 288 business starter kits with a total of PHP2.3 million as of Dec. 15 to qualified beneficiaries under the NSB.

Under PPG, there was 460 livelihood started kits distributed amounting to a total of PHP3.8 million.

“This is a program of DTI wherein MSMEs who were affected by flooding, fire, typhoon, pandemic, among others, were given aid. We help them to restart their businesses through the starter kits,” Dalaten said.

Several trade fairs were held soon as the quarantine eased in order to help boost sales of MSMEs with the assistance of different malls and establishments in the province.

Meanwhile, the provincial government has launched the ‘Pamanang Yaman, Produktong Pangasinan’ project that aims to help the MSMEs and promote native products.

In a recent interview, Ma. Luisa Elduayan, Provincial Tourism, and Cultural Affairs officer, said the launching is part of the ‘Abig (heal) Pangasinan’ livelihood project wherein the provincial government will buy products from MSMEs in the different towns and cities of the province and these will be sold also in the province.

“This is for the MSMEs in the province who are producing native Pangasinan products. They are those who are also promoting our province. Many of them have stopped production and some have laid-off their employees since they have no market as there were no trade fairs and tourists,” she said.

With the project, Elduayan said, the provincial government III hopes to revive MSMEs that were greatly affected by the pandemic.

Tourism reopening

Pangasinan has declared the reopening of its tourism with restrictions through an ordinance approved by Governor Espino and Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

The Pangasinan Provincial Board has crafted an ordinance that prescribes specific guidelines for the reopening of tourism in the province amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Authored by Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member Margielou Orange D. Humilde-Verzosa, Provincial Ordinance No. 254-2020 passed the special session on December 17, states that “the impact of Covid-19 pandemic has been greatly felt by all sectors of society including the tourism industry.”

In Section 5 of the ordinance, it was noted that Pangasinenses are allowed to visit public parks, spaces, and tourist attractions for leisure purposes while following minimum health standards, subject, however, to various local impositions and restrictions including health and safety protocols set by the LGU of the destination.

“It also stated that persons below 15 years of age or those who are over 65 years old shall not be allowed to travel. Pregnant women, persons with existing high-risk health conditions and co-morbidities, minors who have medical complexity, neurologic, genetic, metabolic conditions, or who have the congenital disease are also prohibited from traveling,” the Provincial Information Office (PIO) said.

Pangasinan residents who will travel shall be required to present the following during their visit to a local destination: 1) valid ID, 2) medical certificate issued by the Rural Health Unit point of origin, 3) approval of travel registration from the Online Visitor Registration System (OVRS).

“Guidelines for tourists, on the other hand, stated that for Phase 1 of the travel corridor, only residents of the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and the City of Baguio shall be allowed to travel to Pangasinan with the exemption of those mentioned in Section 5 (please refer to the aforementioned clause of the ordinance) along with the tourists from outside Region 1 (Ilocos) and Baguio City, and those tourists from modified general community quarantine and enhanced community quarantine areas within or outside Ilocos Region,” the PIO added. (PNA)