The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in all aspects of our lives: as communities, as workers, as families and even as individuals. This global health emergency has forced us to live in the new normal such that we seem to have no other choice but to quickly adjust to the unfamiliar dynamics of our new environment. It has made us realize that our society, economy and the prevailing systems in different sectors and industries are fragile and not as effective as we expected them to be.
Last February, at the onset of the outbreak, I delivered a privilege speech in the House of Representatives urging the authorities to strictly enforce our laws against illegal wildlife trade. At that time, scientists and health experts were preoccupied with tracing the potential source of the virus which was said to be the pangolin. Six months later, the whole world is reeling from the ravages caused by COVID-19 and, in the Philippines, we have had more than 115,000 cases of infection, and over 2,100 deaths related to COVID-19. Unfortunately, the toll is still rising quite rapidly.
We Antiqueños were not spared by the virus as there had been 28 confirmed cases (6 active and 22 recovered cases as of August 5, 2020) among our kasimanwa these past months. Nevertheless, we have learned to regard this health crisis as an opportunity to transition towards a ‘better normal’ where we not only try to adapt to our new living and working conditions, but we also hope to thrive and make the best of our circumstances.
Our province has been moving steadily towards progress and, together with Governor Rhodora Cadiao, we continued to deliver services to our kasimanwa specially those who were gravely affected by the pandemic. Together, we spearheaded new programs such as the ‘Pagkaon para sa Tanan’ and the ‘Libre Uli Antique’. Through Pagkaon, we supplemented Antique’s food supply and helped our local farmers sustain their income. On the other hand, Libre Uli facilitated the immediate repatriation of locally-stranded individuals (LSIs) back to the province.
The first RT-PCR Testing Laboratory in the province is also in the process of being established.
As your Representative, I continued to work with the different national government agencies for the implementation of various programs and projects to help the Antiqueños.
Among these programs is the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Assistance to Individual in Crisis Situation (AICS) that provides financial assistance for various purposes such as medicines, food supplies, burial, transportation and education. AICS was made available for all Antiqueños, especially affected families like the displaced workers, LSIs, and those who have lost their sources of income due to the outbreak, which include our Sacadas who came back to the province, the senior citizens, and members of the LGBT community.
Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) livelihood projects were also distributed in the form of capital for hog breeders, community stores, and purchase of fishing supplies.
Antiqueños, specially the displaced workers, were able to avail of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) programs which are the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), Government Internship Program (GIP) and Pangkabuhayan, and DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program.
As most of our kasimanwa rely on the sea for their living and everyday source of food, we made possible the distribution of fishing gears and paraphernalia to our fisherfolk with the help of BFAR to assist them in increasing their fish produce and income. Other livelihood projects also given were fish carts and catfish culture.
We also made sure that Antiqueños were able to continuously avail of the free health care and medical services in all government hospitals in the province through the Medical Assistance to Indigent Patient (MAIP) Program of the Department of Health (DOH), especially during this pandemic.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in other parts of the country,
Antique continues to strive to curb the infections. Our decisive action to impose border restrictions at the onset and the immediate provisions of personal protective equipment (PPEs), masks, thermal scanners, vitamins, gallons of alcohol, and all necessities needed by our frontliners greatly helped in keeping our province safe from the novel corona virus.
I salute all our frontliners: doctors, nurses, provincial and municipal disaster risk reduction and management officers, police and military personnel at the border checkpoints, airport and port personnel, provincial and municipal health officers, barangay health workers, and all our officials. There is indeed no match for your tireless dedication to deliver the needed services to each Antiqueño.
The COVID-19 pandemic is far from being over and the future is even more uncertain. I am fully aware that many of our kasimanwa are suffering from the brunt of losing their jobs, livelihood, property and, sadly for some, their loved ones. It is not easy to manage a crisis of such magnitude but, as your Representative, I assure you that I will continue to serve and provide the assistance needed and deserved by our province and our fellow Antiqueños.
By the grace of God, with all the Antiqueños working together and heeding the call to strictly follow all safety protocols and measures, I have great faith that we shall overcome all these challenges. Together, we can help our province and our kasimanwa emerge resilient and strong amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kruhay Antique!