By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Sangguniang Panglungsod of Iloilo City on Friday unanimously approved the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (CDRRMC) recommendation to declare a state of calamity due to an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) and cholera.
The declaration also allows the release of P12.5 million in calamity funds to perk up the city government’s response to these diseases.
The funding, which comes from the Iloilo City government’s quick response fund (QRF), will be spent on hiring additional medical personnel (P5 million), procurement of medical supplies (P3 million), medicines (P3 million), fuel (P500,000), and other maintenance and operating expenses or MOOE (P1 million).
While the city council voted unanimously to approve the CDRRMC’s August 30 resolution, their nod did not come easily.
City Health Officer (CHO) Dr. Annabel Tang was grilled as to the funding requirement of the calamity declaration.
Tang said that while the health office did have funding under the 2022 regular appropriations of the city, it was not enough to secure new medicines as they did not foresee the outbreaks.
She added that the P1 million OMOE was to augment any unforeseen expenses in addition to the allocated funding, and likewise cited that the P25 million Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses under the CHO’s 2022 appropriations was “on its way to depletion”.
“We have supplies, however, it is not enough because unfortunately [the AGE and cholera outbreaks] were not foreseen. We do have doxycycline but these were appropriated for leptospirosis, so we are lacking. Our COVID management is also ongoing, and some of these [medicines] like azithromycin and omeprazole are being used for COVID,” Tang said.
“When we order [medicine, supplies, and other necessities], we may get charged for fuel and we have to pay for the bulk water. We plan to provide water for the moment that we haven’t corrected our water sources, so that we would be sure that the water they are using is safe,” she added.
Tang also admitted to Councilor Ely Estante that the P12.5 million was actually not enough to combat the AGE and cholera outbreaks, adding that the CHO hoped to contain the outbreak in the next 3 months.
Tang explained that water in residential deep wells and collection containers was found to be positive for coliform and Escherichia coli upon investigation and testing.
She also mentioned that some causes of the outbreaks were broken pipelines and contaminated shallow wells.
The local health chief also cited the “unsanitary way of living” in several of the barangays where the concentration of AGE cases is high.
She also suggested that ambulant food vendors should be required to have individual sanitation certification, which is already a requirement for employees of restaurants and brick-and-mortar fast food chains.
CHO data as of September 1 indicated that there have been 8 cholera cases (7 recovered and 1 active) and 284 AGE cases (157 recovered, 52 admitted, 67 under treatment at home, and 7 deaths) in Iloilo City.
The Iloilo City Investment Services-Business Permits and Licensing Division (ISBPLD) revealed on Friday that six water refilling stations were shuttered down, with two more to be served closure notices.
The ISBPLD on its Facebook page cited violations of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas’ Executive Order No. 54, which required water refilling stations to submit mandatory potability testing, as well as Presidential Decree No. 856 (Sanitation Code), and City Regulation Ordinance No. 2007-016 (Local Revenue Code of Iloilo City).
Metro Pacific Iloilo Water (MPIW), the city’s water utilities distributor, said in a statement on their Facebook on Friday that they have been coordinating with the city government to help in the fight against cholera and AGE.
The MPIW on August 31 likewise stated that the water from their facilities is clean and safe, citing treatment and testing efforts as part of their regular operations.
They also said that they had conducted 18 bacteriological testing since last week when more cases were being reported.
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. on Friday also spoke briefly on possible cholera and AGE cases in the province, saying that the provincial government is monitoring for possible cases.
One new cholera case is reported from Oton town, but the governor said that they are still validating such report.
“We are looking into the province if there are any [AGE and cholera] cases and how many there are, so that we can execute protocols that we need. We have to validate the situation in Oton first,” he said.
The governor reminded the public to keep their houses and surroundings in the community clean so that they may be able to avoid infections and keep the province free from AGE and cholera.
He mentioned the province’s recent ‘Zero Open Defecation’ achievements as cited by the Department of Health.
“[It boils down] to sanitation issues, on the cleanliness of houses. The reason why we targeted Zero Open Defecation is because of [preventing diseases]. It’s about bodily and environmental cleanliness,” he said.
“But we are monitoring and if [AGE and cholera] reaches a certain level, then we have to execute new protocols and measures there,” he added.