Scores of elementary school children attending a forum on Islamic culture and products at the Eco-Tech Center in Lahug were rushed to different Cebu City hospitals on Thursday night in what authorities believed was a case of food poisoning.
But adding confusion to the incident was the fact that the heads of the Department of Education (DepEd)-7 and the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CCDRRMC) gave conflicting figures as to the exact number of victims.
According to Nagiel Bañacia, CCDRRMC Chief, there were 68 victims all in all. He said 61 of them were admitted at the Perpetual Soccour Hospital while seven were confined at Cebu Doctors Hospital from 6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Thursday.
The affected students are from Regions 2, 3, 7, the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Caraga Administrative Region who are part of the more than a thousand elementary pupils attending the 2nd Musabaqah Skills Exhibition at Eco-Tech Center in Sudlon, Barangay Lahug.
The victims experienced vomiting, abdominal pains and diarrhea.
But DepEd-7 regional director Julieta Jeruta clarified that only 52 students were affected in the incident.
“Because our instruction is only to bring affected students to Perpetual Soccour Hospital. Those who brought their children to Cebu Doctors have no approval from us,” Jeruta said.
Jeruta said that she already instructed her staff to look into the matter and investigate kitchen personnel at the Eco-Tech Center.
She also clarified that they can’t determine just yet whether the food from Eco-Tech caused the students’ illness.
“Some of them went outside and bought some food for ‘pasalubong.’ They even buy and eat food outside which is already beyond our control,” she said.
She added that some of the students were staying in three different hotels in Cebu City. “How would we know what they are eating there? So we really don’t know yet,” Jeruta said.
Last Thursday night, Jeruta revealed that the participants were served tinolang isda, fried chicken, vegetables, a cup of rice and bottled water. They were also served bread and juice during their snacks.
Jeruta said that this is the first time such incident happened at the Eco-Tech, 29 years after the facility was placed under DepEd-7’s supervision.
“We also ate the food that they ate. If the problem was the food that we served, then all of us should have also experienced those problems,” she said.
The DepEd-7 chief also assured that Eco-Tech will shoulder the medical expenses of the victims who were mostly diagnosed with dyspepsia and hyper acidity due to weak resistance.
Jeruta also commended the CCDRRMC for the agency’s prompt action of deploying two ambulances to help ferry the victims to the hospital.