Amid confirmed novel coronavirus case, PH gov’t asked to provide assistance to poor communities

“President Duterte must have a sense of emergency on this matter and refrain from his business as usual, nonchalant attitude.”


MANILA – A day after the Department of Health confirmed the Philippines’ first ever case of novel coronavirus, an urban poor group called on the government to provide due medical services to the poorest communities.

“Most of the time, the poor do not go to hospitals for check-ups because they know it is expensive. During this time of emergency, the government must provide due medical assistance to poor communities. Areas that are highly populated, sans the needed medical attention, are vulnerable to the spread of the virus,” said Gloria Arellano, chairperson of urban poor group Kadamay.

The Department of Health has repeatedly warned the public to ensure proper sanitation, avoiding of crowded places, to name a few, to stop the spread of the virus. Other government agencies such as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, too, has ordered drivers and conductors to wear face masks while on duty.

The virus – novel corona virus – has affected more than 7,000 individuals in mainland China alone. Confirmed cases have also been reported in countries such as Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and recently, the Philippines. As such, the World Health Organization has declared it a public health emergency of international concern.

Commercial airlines in the Philippines has already cancelled flights to several cities in China even while President Duterte has recently announced that he is not keen on banning travel to China amid the virus scare. Yesterday, a Xiamen Air flight landed in Davao City, the hometown of the president.

Per Sen. Christopher Go, former aide of the president, Duterte is set to meet ranking health officials and concerned agencies on this matter – next week.

“President Duterte must have a sense of emergency on this matter and refrain from his business as usual, nonchalant attitude,” Danilo Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said.

Reaching out to communities

Dr. Gene Nisperos, a faculty member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine of the UP College of Medicine, said correct information has yet to penetrate at the community-level, especially with the spread of fake news.

“It does not help that the health system is devolutionized. The capacity of local government units to respond varies and those whose health system is not that developed will have difficulties addressing it,” he told Bulatlat.

Nisperos also noted that the country’s health care remains very much focused on “curative” rather than on “preventive care” and with much “emphasis on an insurance based system rather than a strong public health system.”

Read: Philhealth militarization, ‘ghost’ claims reflect problems in health services

“Despite the protocols in place in health centers and hospitals, how much of our population has access to the country’s health care system? The problem of access to healthcare becomes more acute during epidemics, even for seasonal ones we experience every year,” he said.

Ramos, for his part, reminded the government of its duty to ensure public health.

“Given its own limitations, the health department should intensify public communication and information, conduct house-to-house education and campaign, as well as community-based efforts regarding nCov, and ways to prevent its transmission and spread. LGUs should also mobilize barangay health workers and frontline health teams so that they could provide accurate and reliable information to the public as well as do community surveillance,” he said

In this light, Kadamay said, allotting masks, alcohol and hand sanitizers as well as sending out teams of medical professionals to communities can help stop the spread of the virus and manage fears of the public.

For whose benefit?

More than the welfare of the Filipino people, Arellano noted that Duterte is more hell-bent on protecting its good relations with China.

Much like the experience of the survivors of Taal, Arellano said, the government is acting way too slow and stingy.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for People’s Right to Health has urged the public to remain vigilant – with hand hygiene and self-protection, such as the use of mask, which “remains as one of the most important precautionary measure anyone can do during this time.” (

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