Lanao del Sur: Authorities shift fight from terrorism to COVID-19

By: Froilan Gallardo - Correspondent/CDN Digital | March 29,2020 - 06:30 AM

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines —With four COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) positive cases and hundreds more Persons under Monitoring(PUM), authorities in Lanao del Sur have shifted their fight from terrorism to COVID-19.

Colonel Jose Maria Cuerpo, Army 103rd Infantry Brigade chief, said checkpoints manned by health workers and backed by armed soldiers and policemen had imposed quarantine measures more severe than three years ago during the fighting to regain control of Marawi City from Daesh-inspired Maute gunmen. 

Cuerpo said the provincial government had set up the checkpoints to prevent non-residents of Lanao del Sur from entering the province.

He said those included in the ban list were workers from NGOs and aid agencies who had maintained several humanitarian projects in the province.

“Even NGOs and aid agencies are advised to turn away. We told them to stop coming,” Cuerpo said,

4 COVID-19 cases in Lanao del Sur

According to the Department of Health’s latest medical bulletin dated March 27,2020, there are four COVID-19 cases and one death in the province.

The bulletin said there were 28 patients under investigation (PUI), and 2,017 persons under monitoring (PUM) were under home quarantine.

Bangsamoro Transitional Assembly Member Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur anti-Covid 19 Task Force, said this prompted them to implement strict measures designed to let the residents stay in their homes.

He said residents could only go out their homes to buy food and medicines but they should secure “quarantine home pass” to get through the checkpoints.

Adiong said one family would only be entitled to one vehicle with the driver sitting in the front and the passenger at the back for “social distancing”.

“Our quarantine measures are more draconian today compared to the Marawi siege three years ago,” Adiong said.

He said the holding of congregational prayers in all mosques in the province were also banned.

Marawi residents

For Marawi residents living in various temporary shelter camps around the city for the past three years, COVID-19 would be another hardship that they had to endure.

Sixty four-year-old Habib Ismail has taken to sleeping in his makeshift kitchen, which is the only way he can practice “social distancing” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among his family of six .

“I am scared. I heard the virus is very contagious,” Ismail said. 

“But I have to protect my family,” he added. 

Ismail’s fears are well founded. His temporary house in Barangay Sagonsongan, Marawi City measures only 24 square meters (258 square feet)—the size of a pickup truck.

Ismail said there was a growing concern in the evacuation sites outside Marawi, where hundreds of families had been living a hand-to-mouth existence since the Islamic State-linked militants seized the once-scenic city in 2017.

He said uneasiness had been growing especially when they heard reports that hundreds of residents were placed under home quarantine.

Ismail is also worried about sanitation in their temporary camp in Sagonsongan, where clean water is a perennial problem for an estimated 1,000 families living there.

He said at best, a couple of trucks deliver water every week to the households.

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TAGS: checkpoints, COVID-19, Cuerpo, Lanao del Sur, Marawi City, social distancing, terrorism

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