Rice sufficiency amid coping and surviving Covid-19 in Banaybanay town

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BANAYBANAY, DAVAO ORIENTAL — This town is just composed of over 13,000 households where the majority of its residents are into rice farming and has been known to produce ‘Banaybanay Rice”, the rice granary of Davao Oriental and among the producing towns of Southern Mindanao.

But they too were not spared from the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Truth to that, the town hosted the first big nine Coronavirus positive patients of Davao Oriental, but the leadership of the provincial government led by Governor Nelson Dayanghirang and the town Mayor Ada Caballero Lopez has accorded local capacities in coping, to be able to survive the impacts of the pandemic.

The first and the toughest checkpoint this reporter has ever passed is located on the highway of Barangay Pintatagan. However, my group was so impressed as the team seems to be so thorough in handling their defined health protocol.

The Newsline took the time to interview Lopez, as the chief executive of the rice-producing town of Banaybanay. Here is the one-on-one interview between Newsline and Mayor Lopez.

Newsline: Mayor Congratulations because we passed through three municipalities and for the first time, we saw, of those municipalities, we passed through, it was in your town we see people wearing a face mask and motorbikes do not have back rides. For that, congrats. What is the status of Banaybanay when it comes to campaign against Covid?

Mayor Lopez: We continue the info dissemination of protocol, like the basics that we do, like wearing of face mask, then, washing of hands and social distancing, in that way, we prevent the contamination, because it is so hard if we do not do that. And people are getting used to it.

Even, I myself, I do not get out of the house without face masks. So, basically that’s what we do first. Second, we need to protect people. We need to monitor the entry to people from outside. But, of course, we will not defy the order of the national government, like the returning OFWs, we cannot defy the national government.

Newsline: How many ‘positive’ do you have?

Mayor: Nine. . . two weeks, then last week, negative, then- everyone turned out negative. Five of them are OFWs and four with travel history in Maguindanao

Newsline: How did you handle it? Seems it was your first time.  The first time for a small town- seems-there was scare- how did you handle it? The preparation and information to the people?

Mayor: When they were fetched in Davao, they were immediately brought to the screening committee, composed of the municipal health officer, PNP, nurse and they proceeded to the quarantine unit, then swabbing. That’s what we did, for them not to engage with the family, we need to distance their family. And after the swabbing . . . to the barangay isolation unit.

The village leaders, the four villages affected complained that they cannot control those families, so what we did, we bring them back to the municipal isolation facility.

After that, they again were re-swab, then the result showed -they turned negative, we were thankful because they turned negative.

Newsline: So far mayor,  what was the response of the people, were they more aware then?

Mayor: Yes! they are more responsible. They are aware . . . they were alarmed and they do not just get out of their houses, like that. Even if we are in MGCQ in Davao Oriental, they do not get out of their houses, which is okay.

Newsline: Is the production of rice affected?

Mayor: No, they are not . . . like the cropping last May, there were transients who arrived,  as they need (manpower), but the (production) is not affected.

Newsline: In terms of production, is Banaybanay still producing?

Mayor: Yes!

Newsline: How do you look at it, they say the city residents are the ones affected by Covid, because rural folks, you have a food supply, you have fruits, you have vegetables, and they say they were given bonus through the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Mayor: No, not that . . . they should not rely on social amelioration. But they are happy . . . but you know, in rural areas, people can do many things. Even if they do not go to the office, they can do their things like backyard gardening. They can do a lot in the province and they are used to it.

Newsline: In terms of relief, how many families were given?

Mayor: Everyone, every household, during the second wave— we released  13, 477 for every household, everyone was given, no one was spared, we provided twice.

Newsline: How’s the crime rate?Did it increase during Covid?

Mayor: No! We maintained the peace and order and security.

Marcelino, 65, a resident of Barangay Poblacion, Purok Molave told Newsline “Kami naminaw gyud mi sa among mayor, kay kung magkina-unsa ning covid ug ang among panguma, sa iya man gyud mi padulong, maong pag-ingon nga ang mga senior dili puede mogawas-wala na jud ko mogawas hangtud karon”.

(We listen to our Mayor because whatever happens during Covid and in our farming, we will run to her, so, when she said that seniors are not allowed to go out, I never went out until now.)

For Marcelino, people’s cooperation is one of the keys to survive during the pandemic and they are coping as a town because they move as one.-Editha Z. Caduaya

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