It was a struggle on how to get through to the indigenous communities when the Philippines issued every 15 days new quarantine classfications still limiting travels depending on the rise of covid cases by the day and travel restrictions getting sricter in most areas. Much as we think COVID19 could not reach through remote hinterland areas, some returning residents working from city centers like Manila has contracted the virus and became carriers that endangers the health of indigenous peoples in their villages.
The first order of the day was accessing a sizeable number of face masks and medicines and readying them for transport for distribution to the most vulnerable communities. This is to provide them with initial immune-boosting supplements and the standard face masks defenses to avert potential infections.
In mid-August, we were able to purchase 20 boxes of Vitamin C with a hundred capsules per box and 20 boxes of face masks as well with about 50 masks per box for the first set of distribution to Brgy. Bayabas in the province of Abra Northern Phlippines, one of four (4) priority MHP communities included in this project. Not enough though to cover the targeted 700 priority indigenous peoples spread in the next three (3) barangays , but at least some stocks would get through initially to the community which holds a number of residents working and returning from Manila, where most districts are still under Enhanced Community Quarantines (ECQs) given high case volumes of infections.
We repacked the Vitamins and face masks to extend the number of individuals that can avail of the items and hence could benefit initially the protective measures. There was some difficuty though in transporting the packages to the site due to the numerous travel requirements from SIBAT's Satellite Center located in the Municipaity of Capas Province of Tarlac, Central Luzon Philippines, a 2-hour drive north of Manila to the indigenous communties which are 8-12 hours drive from Capas.
The items were carried simultaneous with the initial field work of our Renewable Energy Personnel who belabored to catch up target activities after being delayed for 5 months due to the lockdown. They have to contend with the mandatory quarantine implemented by the Local Government Units of the projec sites before they can go to the communities.
Given the travel restrictions and quarantine protocols, the personnel will stay in the community for three months (they are expected to be back this week) to cover as much work to beat deadlines.
Another engineering team will take their turn in going to the sites to continue the work and we plan to bring most if not all masks, alcohol and vitamins and other needed medicines to the target communities to complete distribution.
The Philippines has not flattened the curve yet and cases are still on the rise. Despite, the government is gradually opening economic activities with strict calls to observe social distancing, masks and alcohol protocols. With this, the risk is still high. There are cases of infections reported in remote areas like indigenous communities. Hence, vitamin supplements, face masks and needed medicines are still very much needed in these areas.
We wil provide more updates as to the progress of the work . Thank you to all who supported the project.