MORE than a year into the pandemic, the Visayas region has reached a significant milestone in its Covid-19 response efforts as local government units (LGUs) are now poised to implement their respective community vaccinations, a major step towards economic recovery.
On Saturday, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav) officially culminated the rollout of the Visayas Covid-19 Vaccination Operations Center (VVOC) Manual after this was cascaded to all LGUs in the three Visayas regions in the past three weeks.
“With the culmination of the VVOC Manual rollout in the Visayas, I now declare Visayas is ready for community vaccination,” Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino said. From its successful pilot rollout in Cebu province, the vaccination manual has since been made available to the rest of Central, Eastern and Western Visayas LGUs. The VVOC manual aims to capacitate them in preparing for the vaccination of their general population.
“With the cooperation from our leaders who share a strong compassion for our people, I believe we are going in the right direction. To roll out the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for Covid-19, we have cascaded the VVOC Manual to the Regional and Local Covid-19 Vaccination Operations Centers,” Dino said in his message.
Inter-Agency Task Force-Visayas Chief Implementer General Melquiades Feliciano has authored this manual for the community vaccination plan in accordance with guidelines set forth by the national government.
Feliciano collaborated with Opav, the Department of Health-Central Visayas and the private sector, through the Project Balik Buhay, in the preparation of the VVOC manual.
Dino then directed the rollout of the vaccination handbook to ensure the “readiness” of LGUs in implementing the National Vaccination Program.
“With our successful cascading, we (the Visayas) are now ready to smoothly implement the community vaccination program,” Feliciano said during the culmination activity held in Boracay Island.
Aside from the efforts of the government, Dino also underscored the key role of the private sector, through PBB, in fighting this unseen enemy.
The PBB is a Cebu-based inter-sectoral group initiated by Dino and composed of private and public stakeholders. The group was formed in an effort of both the public and private sectors in Cebu to work together to address the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
Cebuano businessman Edmun Liu, who chairs the PBB, credited much of the Covid-19 response efforts to the national government, saying that the private sector has been more than willing to do its part in the pandemic fight since at its height early last year.
“It’s the leadership between the private and public sectors that really brought us together, gave us clear directives, set our goals and charted our way to recovery,” Liu said. Liu narrated how the PBB became a key implementing group for Covid-19 measures in Cebu and eventually to other parts of the region which included the initial responses to the pandemic until now the vaccination phase.
He said the “efficient and effective execution of right mechanisms on the ground” enabled the PBB initiative to succeed.
“The LGUs and everybody came together and collaborated to come up with solutions,” Liu said, citing the active cooperation of private companies in the government’s Covid-19 response activities.
“We are working our way towards vaccinating a big part of our population so we can finally and gradually safely reopen our economies,” the businessman said.
The cooperation of the private sector has been led by Liu and Regional Development Council-Central Visayas Chairman Kenneth Cobonpue.
Moreover, Dino stressed that all were accomplished with the guidance of President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go who provided logistical and technical assistance to the regions.
Since April, Opav has traversed through regional and provincial borders to meet all of governors and mayors in the Visayas to help guide the LGUs in their community vaccination.
The DOH in Central Visayas led by Regional Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas and its Chief Pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche have been supportive of the Opav’s Covid-19 initiatives since last year.
Dino also acknowledged the efforts of Feliciano and his wife Mia, who is a medical professional, for their tireless efforts in creating the VVOC Manual as well as the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Manual, which was designed to help LGUs address the medical aspect of the Covid-19 crisis.
“Despite the dark times brought about by the pandemic, we found ourselves uniting and working together in order to address the difficult situation we were in,” Dino further said.
Earlier, Secretary Dino already expressed optimism to vaccinate a big chunk of the Visayas by the end of 2021, granting the availability of more vaccines, which is being worked on by the national government.
Dino spearheaded the creation of the VVOC, which is headquartered in Mandaue City, Cebu, in cooperation with both public and private sectors in an aim to unify and streamline the vaccination throughout the Visayas region.
‘Time to reopen’
Undersecretary Anthony Gerard Gonzales of the Office of the President also pointed out that with readiness of LGUs for vaccination now ensured, it’s high time for Visayas region to openly adopt economic reopening.
“Dapat buksan na ang ating ekonomiya because we now know how to handle the Covid-19. We have already formulated the best practices in handling the crisis after more than a year,” Gonzales said.
The official raised the urgency to create a “One Visayas” concept for the whole region just like what the provincial government of Cebu did to unite the island in its effort to move on and move forward from the pandemic.
Through this, the region will be able to harmonize its efforts to safely reopen and recover from the pandemic.
“Covid is here to stay. Our community response system is there to help us manage the situation better,” Gonzales said. Gonzales also noted that the success of the country’s Covid-19 response in various communities lie within the mayors and LGUs.
He emphasized that the national government continues to extend support to capacitate the LGUs and provide the necessary technical and logistical support and expertise to address the pandemic.
Earlier, Duterte lauded the Opav for the establishment of the VVOC, which is leading the vaccination rollout in the Visayas.
“I am certain that through the dedicated efforts of the men and women of the VVOC, we can ensure the efficient delivery, storage and distribution of the vaccines to various local government units in the Visayas,” the President said.
Duterte expressed his confidence in the publication of the VVOC Manual, which is seen to “harmonize the steps to be taken by our Visayas LGUs so that their efforts would be aligned to our national vaccination plan.” (PR)