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“DIRI SA MALUNGON, UNA PIRMI ANG SEGURIDAD TA, BISAN MAY PANDEMYA”: LGU Malungon’s proactive approach in ensuring Malungonians’ safety amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

What’s more frightening, more difficult to notice, and much more difficult to confront than a grave enemy who is always around but you cannot see, hear, nor feel? Such is the phantom we call the Coronavirus disease or well known as the COVID-19. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a phantom that one can simply disregard, for it is a vicious phenomenon that has taken the lives of many, and continues to burden the livelihood of millions, as well as hamper the delivery of services to the community. The invisible threat posed fear to many, and this unprecedented pandemic caused an amalgamation of multi-sectoral impact to the way governance, businesses, and life in general actually operates.

In this time of pandemic, there is a grave need for interventions that will help energize and stimulate the economy while balancing the considerations for health and safety of the people. While governance and service delivery were heavily hampered by the pandemic, it is actually high time for the government to be more active and visible in ensuring the safety of the people while ensuring gradual multi-sectoral recovery.

As such, the government came up with various interventions and innovations to address this complicated situation, and one of the most innovative interventions is the Safety Seal Certification Program. The program is an ingenious product of collaboration between pertinent National Government Agencies (NGAs) which aims to provide for a whole-of-nation approach in ensuring that the delivery of services by both public and private entities in the country is unhampered even amid the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring the health and safety of the clients and the community in general, through enhanced compliance to the minimum public health standards. The program is governed by DILG-DOLE-DTI-DOT-DOH JMC No. 21-01 entitled “Implementing Guidelines of the Safety Seal Certification Program”, of which DILG MC No. 2021-053 was based from, which was specifically issued to govern implementation of the program for establishments covered by DILG and LGUs.

Establishments which are strictly compliant with the set standards will be awarded with a Safety Seal, which can be posted at the vicinity for the public to see, thereby boosting consumer and client confidence that service may be availed in the facility with little-to-no risk of COVID-19 transmission through related  transactions or activities.

Thus, the Safety Seal serves as a physical manifestation of an establishment’s compliance to the minimum health standards established by the government in order to mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19.

In support to the initiative, the DILG RXII, under the leadership of RD Josephine C. Leysa, proactively spearheaded the implementation of the Program for areas under its jurisdiction, in order to ensure that facilities and establishments in the region are compliant to the provisions of the guidelines in order to address both ensuring the service delivery for constituents and ensuring their health and safety. Heeding this call, DILG Malungon of Sarangani Province led by MLGOO Marife C. Tenorio, with its active partnership and collaboration with LGU Malungon under the leadership of Mayor Maria Theresa “Tessa” Constantino, and the Liga ng mga Barangay President Romel “Omel'' Retuya, convened composite teams of Safety Seal Certification inspectors and validators in order to serve as a springboard in efficiently and effectively lead the implementation of the program. To ensure program implementation, logistics are ensured by Mayor Tessa, including the preparation of expensive seals and plaques, adding more value to the program and motivating participating establishments more.

The MLGOO led validation team included the LGOO apprentices from the DILG-Central Office, with the assistance of the LnB President Romel Retuya and LnB Vice-President Ernesto “Jojo” Alegario Jr., who visited and validated Safety Seal Certification entries of Barangay Facilities, particularly the Barangay Halls of all 31 Barangays of Malungon - leaving no stones left unturned. Guided by the principle that the pandemic should not be the cause of hindrance or stoppage of public service, the team led by MLGOO Tenorio strictly evaluated the compliance of all Barangays to the COVID-19 protocols – focusing on the establishments’ readiness to accept clients and provide service while ensuring observance of proper COVID-19 protocols, as well as efficient and effective contact tracing mechanisms and COVID-19 referral systems and management procedures.

As a result of this proactive response to the Region’s call, Malungon was the first among all LGUs in Sarangani Province, and moreover, of the entire Region to have establishments who were awarded with the Safety Seal – and this includes the Barangay Halls of all 31 Barangays of Malungon, as well as a good number of Public Facilities and Offices under the Municipal Government of Malungon (with the first batch of validated facilities issued with Safety Seal as early as July 2, 2021, and the rest on July 12, 2021) . This initiative does not stop here, as DILG Malungon continues provision of TA related to the program, as well as scheduling further validation activities for the rest of LGU Malungon facilities, while LGU Malungon is now proactively implementing the program validation for establishments under its area of jurisdiction as issuing authority. The exigency of public service compelled the Validation teams to steadily pursue program and strictly comply with the protocols themselves, visiting and validating barangays even amid unfavorable terrain and weather, just to ensure that the Barangays are well prepared to safely provide services to their constituents. Validation activities were guided by the prescribed checklist, while validators capture Geo-tagged photos and secure MOVs for entries, as well as provide on-site coaching and feedback to further address areas of improvement.

The awarding of Safety Seal for the first batch of BLGUs were conducted during the conduct of the DILG Malungon’s Full Devolution Orientation for Barangays entitled “Reimagining Local Governance under Full Devolution: Orientation on the Supreme Court Ruling on the Mandanas-Garcia Petitions” which was held last July 07, 2021 at the Sunken Arena, Malungon Municipal Compound, Malungon, Sarangani.

With the unprecedented success of the program’s implementation, the health and safety of Malungonians are ensured as they access services offered by the BLGUs and the Municipal Government, with due confidence and trust in the government. Thus, here in Malungon, safety is always first, even amid the pandemic (Diri sa Malungon, una permi ang siguridad ta, maski may pandemya).

The Safety Seal is renewable every 6 months, while reporting is done bi-weekly. As such, establishments in Malungon have to retain their compliance to COVID-19 protocols, else the seal may be revoked at any given time. This ensures that safe delivery of services by the establishments will not stop even after clenching the seal, while in fact, these should steadily improve in order to address the continuously aggravating condition of the people amid the pandemic.

Still, this is a solid foundation to ensuring the health and safety of the Malungonians, while ensuring that public service is unhampered. This initiative truly supports Malungon’s tagline; Subida Malungon!