Sulu governor opposes martial law, says economic development is what province needs

SULU GOVERNOR Abdusakur M. Tan is opposed to a declaration of martial law in the province, which was proposed by the top military officers following Monday’s twin blasts in the capital Jolo that killed 14 people and wounded over 70 others. “Hindi ako papayag dyan. Nagawa na natin yan noon (I will not agree to that. Because we have done that before)… Military intervention is just one aspect of the solution. What we need in Sulu is to try a different tact and method like educational and economic development,” Mr. Tan said during a multi-sectoral meeting on Wednesday streamed live on the provincial government’s Facebook page. “I had been there in the ‘70s, and I don’t want it to happen again,” he said during the meeting attended by security forces and civil society groups, among other sectors. At the same time, Mr. Tan expressed full backing to the military and the police in their security measures. “We will support you for helping us,” he said. At the same time, the governor called on local government units and the communities to help in addressing the problem of extremism.

In Manila, Police chief Archie Francisco F. Gamboa said they are supporting the proposal to place Sulu under martial law to give security forces “more  operational flexibility” in pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group that is suspected to be behind the bombings. Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, meanwhile, said  President Rodrigo R. Duterte will decide on a martial law declaration based on the recommendations of the police and the military. “Kapag ang report naman ay nagtugma na sapat na dahilan ito sa martial law, ikukunsidera naman po yan ng Presidente (If the report justifies the reasons for martial law, this will be considered by the President),” he said in an interview over government-run PTV station. — with reports from Gillian M. Cortez and Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR

Medical teams, equipment to be deployed to Bacolod City as COVID-19 cases surge

MEDICAL TEAMS from the Philippine Army and neighboring areas will be deployed to Bacolod City after Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia made an urgent call for help on Tuesday from the national government “before our health care system completely bogs down.” In a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Leonardia said Lt. Gen. Roberto T. Ancan of the military’s Visayas Command Center “promised to field, as soon as possible, a medical team composed of army doctors, nurses, and support health workers.” Medical equipment will also be sent after a needs assessment. The mayor also said Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the national action plan for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, also gave assurance that nurses and doctors from other parts of the Western Visayas Region as well as the neighboring Central Visayas will be sent to help Bacolod’s health care sector. “Our need for medical staff to fill up the gap in our hospitals is great, Mr. President. Patients have already died in their homes for failing to avail of emergency hospital services,” the mayor said in his Aug. 25 letter addressed to President Rodrigo R. Duterte. “The recent spike in local transmissions of COVID-19 in our City has filled up, in no time, the 149 COVID beds in our 7 hospitals (1 government, 6 private). The situation was worsened because many of the medical staff in these hospitals has tested positive for the virus and had to go on quarantine/isolation,” he explained. Department of Health Regional Director Marlyn W. Convocar said the hospitals are already preparing to increase the city’s COVID bed allocation by another 98 while additional health workers and personal protective equipment will be provided.

A team from the national task force on COVID-19 were off to the Western Visayas Region on Wednesday, with Iloilo City as their first stop then Bacolod. The group will be led by Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino and Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, who also headed the team that was sent to Cebu at the height of its COVID-19 outbreak. As of Aug. 25, region had 3,651 COVID-19 cases, with 2,043 active. Of the active cases, the biggest number is in Iloilo City with 604, followed by Bacolod with 460. The rest are in the following: Negros Occidental, 313; Iloilo province, 239; Guimaras, 37; Capiz, 21; Antique, 11; and Aklan, 2. The remaining 334 cases are categorized as returning residents or persons authorized to be outside residence. — MSJ