UNPRECEDENTED WAS THE DEVASTATION castigated upon the Bohol economy,
health welfare and bureaucratic attention that Covid-19 related stories monopolized most of the headlines of the Chronicle in the year 2020.
The unparalleled medical phenomenon grabbed 8 of the 12 Top Stories of the Year- they were almost suffocating the Boholano psyche.
It appears that in exactly one century from 1919 when the gruesome Spanish Flu infected 500 million or one-third of the world population and killed 50 million that a new virus has emerged. Covid-19 started in Wuhan China about this same time last year and so far claimed 1.7 million deaths and 78 million infections worldwide.
Medical science has been mercifully able to contain what the world could not do in 1919-1920 but this cousin of the SARs and MERs is the biggest global challenge since World War II.
(1) BOHOL WARNED VERSUS COVID 19 (JANUARY 22)
The alarm bells started tolling across the province as the bad news from China escalated landing a first Covid 5-year-old victim in nearby Cebu City after he traveled to Wuhan, the virus epicenter. The proximity to Bohol of Cebu was a blessing in disguise in that it dramatized in a big way our proximity to clear and present danger.
Frequent hand washing, improved sanitation and the avoidance of stray animals were knee-jerk reactions as the first wrong signals indicated the virus come have come from recalcitrant flying bats or snakes- frequently sold as delicacies in Wuhan.
(2) NO ENTRY TO BOHOL STARTS TOMORROW (March 15)
Concerned about the widespread Covid 19 in Manila, Governor Arthur Yap issued an executive order closing the sea entries and the international airport from visitors for one week and suspended all private and public schools till April.
There was a concern for both imported and locally transmitted Covid 19 cases since the Bohol health care system was tragically ill-equipped at only 37-bed capacity to isolate seriously affected patients. Barangays were directed to make their game plans to house the less severe cases as the world Coivd numbers propelled skywards in revolting volume.
By this time, the gravity of the impending catastrophe was beginning o dawn upon all and prayers were called for to the religiously-inclined Boholanos.
(3) FIRST COVID COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION IN BOHOL ( JUNE 7)
The panic button was pressed in June when Bohol suffered its first two locally community transmitted senior citizens from Tagbilaran City and Talibon even as home quarantine was made a serious ancillary to the health care system.
The theory was that since the two did not have travel records in recent dates, it stood to reason that the virus so so widespread it could spread on all kinds of platforms. Contact tracings were done in these two places and initially, 107 households in the city were on painful lockdown- no entry, no exit for people there.
News worsened when it was medically proven that some carriers can be asymptomatic (without signs of the disease like colds, fever and shortness of breath) and still be bearers of the wily virus.
(4) FIRST COVID LABORATORY OPENS IN GALLARES HOSPITAL (AUGUST 2)
Bohol’s premier government hospital- the Gov, Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital announced the first empire’s “strike back” against the streaking disease with the announcement of the opening of the province’s first major defense a modern Covid 19 Testing Facility within 10 days.
Upon the prodding of Rep. Edgar Chatto to DOH Sec. Francisco Duque and the abled stewardship of hospital chief, Dr. Kismet Macuno, the facility opened on Aug 25 ready to process as many as 80 patients a day or 240 in a month after getting 100% clearance from the Research Institute of Topical Medicine upon endorsement of the Department of Health.
Four highly -trained medical technologists were to come in as part of the package to implement a trouble-free RT-PCT facility in less than two weeks.
That it took Bohol 5 months to erect its first solid defense versus Covid 19 since March -discovery date of the magnitude of the problem- was lost in the euphoria of having one at last- not why now only? The facility is said to be imported from China using government funds.
(5) 71 COVID CASES IN HOT SPOT ISLETS: TALIBON AND BIEN UNIDO ( AUGUST 30)
One of the biggest scares occurred last August as the infected number in Bohol soared in a quantum leap to 87 after 71 new infections came from two islets: Guindacpan Talibon and Malingin Bien Unido resulting in from a fish trading activity from other places.
The islets in total lockdown, some 60 army and police personnel were deployed even as the Philippine Coast Guard and the PNP imposed extra mobile sea patrol units to monitor possible illegal incursions into Bohol territories.
The alarm came as contacts between the islanders and Cebu residents (engaged in the fishing business) triggered the sudden rise of Covid patients. The Bohol Chronicle Radio Corp launched “Tabang Isla” which sent face masks, face shields, clean potable water and alcohol donated by kind hearted Boholanos.
This included Bohol citizens stranded in nearby provinces with no legal source of entry back into their home province.
At this point, it was clear the Covid Battle was going to become bigger before it got smaller.
(6) BOHOL LOSES P 10-BILLION TO COVID (SEPTEMBER 13)
The bigger cataclysm that proved worse than the absence of life (deaths) was staring at the grim faces of Boholanos like a freaking monster when the NEDA announced that the economic loss Bohol suffered in six months registered at a devastating P 10-Billion. This came in the form of ” investment, income, jobs and livelihood” losses.
Some 42% of the workforce or 200,000 Boholanos lost their jobs or sources of income. Multiplying the dependents of three- this is a staggering 800,000 people of the 1.3 million Bohoalnos who slumped to their worst condition in decades representing 75% of the population.
Despite the meager aid and rice supplement, the poor became poorer and some of the middle income slipped below the poverty line. The rich suffered gargantuan losses in opportunity and actual cost and uncollected receivables. Life in Bohol is at a virtual standstill. Bohol became a howling desert of hunger, fear and hopelessness of a dim future.
Bayanihan’s 1 and 2 are clear palliatives and government resources were dwindling as sources of funds like taxes also vanished.
Big plans were made but until the economy is opened up and confidence is shot back- all are paperwork in futility. Some OFWs and those working in key Philippine cities also lost their jobs and were sent home as well – aggravating the situation. It was Apocalypse 101.
(7) MAYOR MONTERO FACES RAPS (November 8)
Apparently rubbing salt into the wounds of an angry, hungry people was Panglao Mayor Nila Montero who with 15 others breached old protocols and traveled to Cebu and back without as much as a by your leave. After one month of the wishy-washy posture of Capitol, public opinion finally forced the filing of criminal and administrative charges against her that can lead to one-year imprisonment and a measly fine.
It was a clear case of officials leading in the breaking of the law it had so harshly imposed on its own citizens without guilt and with impunity. Impunity in the sense that after the filing of charges social media photos again showed the same mayor in a Halloween party where social distancing was not observed.
Netizens say it was a clear display of “some are above the law” better than the rest.
It s most unfortunate as the lady executive heads the island which is the main gateway to the province through an international airport. She was not taking the safety protocol seriously.
The case was lifted to the Ombudsman and netizens will be well advised to monitor the case since as in many cases in the past – cases of public officials are mothballed inside the desks of the Ombudsman and suffer the fate of Mona Lisa- to lie there and to die there.
(8) BOHOL OPENS TO TOURISM, GROUP ARRIVALS (NOV 15)
In an attempt to open Bohol Tourism specifically the Group tour and MICE for meetings and conventions, Bohol appeared on national TV to announce it will “open” Bohol. It adopted the Bubble Concept accepted around the world but still with tamer but still strict protocol before and after arrival here.
Bubbles inside bubbles were created and resorts and establishments were accredited. Will this succeed?
It faces competition from landlocked Luzon where only land trips are necessary to go somewhere for a vacation with less stringent protocols. Bohol, unfortunately, is an island that can only- be reached by either sea or air. The savior could be Bohol-based tourists themselves some of who have the money to do a staycation and be dispensed the messy protocol and accorded up to 50 percent discounts.
Governor Yap had vowed to stay away from “too much tourism” and to shift Bohol to some kind of agri haven. He has been congressman of the 3rd district for three terms ( 9 years) and is a former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture under president GMA.
Quo vadis, Bohol?
(9) ANTI CORRUPTION SENTIMENT SWEEPS BOHOL
Buoyed by the categorical support of President Rodrigo Duterte who established the “8888” Line for citizens to report in anonymity all forms of graft and inefficiency here and offered as well cash reward of P50,000 to P100,000 to every whistleblower who can stop graft or cause a conviction- a group of Bohol-based contractors said publicly ” No Mas” (No More) to corruption.
They decried the three modus operandi of public officials alleged rigging and graft, named names of brokers and those non-Bohol -based contractors who cornered the big Bohol projects. The alleged bribe money now escalates to 18% of the project cost excluding the 3% each to those willing to participate in the charade bidding.
A week later, a group of quarry operators told media a certain “Aida” at the Provincial Treasurer’s Office pointed to a certain “Ivan” as the alleged “bagman” of the loot of P 50 per cubic meter of quarry and controller of delivery receipts.
The Sangguniang Panglalawigan which has been viewed as One Big Committee on Silence at least gave two brave BMs lately in Lucille Lagunay and Dionisio Victor Balite who tried to dig deeper into the “Ivan” controversy. They were partially stymied by the lack of formal charges filed by anyone.
However, independent bodies like the NBI and a purported picture of “Ivan” in the company of an important government functionary are making the rounds and can help pinpoint who and if “Ivan” is for real. When charges are filed- at the very least – the “Aida” should be subpoenaed for pointing to “Ivan” who Capitol says is not of their employee responsible in clearing anything to do with quarry.
These rumblings of gargantuan corruption on stream are mere tips of an iceberg and can unearth the past and prevent forthcoming attempts at public thievery of people’s funds in the coming months.
(10) REP. AUMENTADO FLIES TO CONGRESS AMID HOUSE FIASCO (OCTOBER 11)
The political destiny of the young Rep Aris Aumentado (2nd district), heir of the mantel of the leadership of then political kingpin Rico Aumentado- got a shot in the arm when he was lifted by a private plane to become part of the coup d’etat that ousted Speaker Peter Cayetano and installed Lord Velasco as a new one and ensure passage of a porkless budget. He is the lone Bohol congressman belonging to the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC).
It bolstered his possible shot at the governorship as he exits from his last term in 2022- after which the young solon had not closed any political doors. Of the three congressmen, only Rep Edgar Chatto of the 1st district is identified with Governor Yap as 3rd district congressperson Alexie Tutor is hands-holding with Aris.
Political groundswell will erupt as January 2021 opens as Governor Yap no longer hides his ambition to run for re-election and take all comers. Leoncio “Toloy” Evasco Jr. who lost by a whisker of 3,000 votes to Yap in bribe-money-marred polls in 2018 is back in the corridors of power as Cabinet Secretary- streamlining the often messy national government bureaucracy.
Evasco served as Duterte’s campaign manager in the successful presidential run in 2018.
(11) POWER CONSUMERS TO GET REFUND DUE TO ERROR IN CHARGES
It started with a Chronicle Exclusive Story right after the May 2018 polls where Boholano electric consumers were shocked at the sudden peso surge of their power bills. Capitol took notice and Governor Yap and Congressman Chatto flew to Manila to file what seemed like an erroneous computation of the power billings of consumers to Energy Regulatory Commission Agnes Devanedera.
Days of the figure -tearing confirmed the erroneous computation that forced ERB to order the power distributors here to reimburse some P 100 Million to Bohol power users in the following months. It was a Case Study of Concerned Consumer vigilance, media interference and LGU action on behalf of a disenfranchised constituency.
The controversy benefited also other consumers in the country who were also wrongly billed a billion pesos for the faux pas.
(12) LILA STANDS FIRM ON WHALE SHARKBOOM ( JAN 12)
Lila is an unpretentious fifth class municipality of only 12,000 inhabitants headed by Mayor Arturo Piollo II who has found an exit from the poverty of many of his constituents with the then-booming Whale Shark Watching and Snorkeling activity in Barangay Taug.
Whereas in the past the whale sharks shied away from predatory fisherfolk who wanted their meat for food, they now surface along the shores of that barangay since they are fed scientifically by the LGU and kept away from harm’s way by clumsy tourists.
The town has kept an orderly tourism attraction ( P1,000 per foreigner P 500 per local) to view and snorkel with the friendly mammals between 5 am too 11 am every day on a strictly ” no-touch” basis.
Mayor Piollo refused to attend a hearing at the Sangguniang Panlalwigan regarding an ordinance affecting their tourism jewel ( calling it an “ecological trap”) as he insisted on the autonomy of LGUs to run the affairs of their territories. Up to the pre-pandemic days, the event is a successful LGU tourism project.
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