A PLACE FOR OUR CHILDREN, EVEN IN THE WORST CRISIS
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations (UN) pleaded for the world to protect the rights of children, stating that it is the poorest and most vulnerable members of society that were hit the hardest as effect of the national lockdowns.
“Children are not the face of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but they risk being among its biggest victims,” the UN writes in a policy brief.
Responding to this global call, the Provincial Government of Davao de Oro in partnership with its constituent municipal local government units and national government agencies worked hard to secure that Davao de Oro remains a safe ground for children. In 2018, all of the eleven (11) municipalities in Davao de Oro were hailed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development as “child-friendly”, satisying requirements on children’s survival, development, protection, participation, and governance.
Keeping children nourished in times of the pandemic
The series of community quarantines imposed by both local and national governments forced businesses and industries to close, resulting to the loss of income for many. The provincial government mobilized its Mobile Kusina to bring free lugaw, fried chicken, and buko juice to children living in housing and resettlement sites where the majority of low-income families and those most affected by the pandemic live.
As of this writing, the Mobile Kusina has already fed 13, 866 children all over the province. The Mobile Kusina is an extension of the province’s school-based feeding program, Kusina ng Kalinga which feeds undernourished schoolchildren for 120 days. The program is a shared endeavor of the provincial government, municipal government units, the Department of Education, and civil society organizations.
Mobile Kusina’s fund was given by private partners such as the Davao Multi-Purpose Seed Producers’ Cooperative, who donated twenty-three (23) sacks of rice from the Quarry Operators Association of Compostela Valley, Mr. Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation, Beautéderm Corporation, former scholars of the province’s Compostela Valley Scholarship Program (CVSP), and individual contributions from the staff and personnel of PLGU-Davao de Oro.
Governor Tyron Uy himself gave his one month salary, equivalent to one hundred thousand pesos (PhP 100, 000. 00), to Mobile Kusina to get the program going. The governor also tagged along with the Mobile Kusina team on his birthday on May 8 to see and serve the children of Davao de Oro.
Helping Stranded Children and Youth
Even children that were not from Davao de Oro received assistance from the provincial government and municipal local governments of Davao de Oro.
The month of March, when the first regional lockdown was imposed in Davao Region, a PhilTranco bus from Manila got stranded within its borders. Davao de Oro, being the region’s gatekeeper in the north, carries the responsibility restricting vehicles from entering into Davao Region to shield it from the increasing COVID-19 cases in other parts of the country. Passengers of the stranded bus included a one-year old child and a pregnant mother.
Balancing the rigidity of the law and the need to be humane and compassionate, Governor Tyron decided to provide shelter to the passengers of the PhilTranco bus. They were housed in a facility owned by the provincial government in Pasi-an Monkayo, where they underwent mandatory quarantine for fourteen (14) days. Passengers were from different parts of Mindanao such as Davao City, Davao del Norte, Basilan, Maguindanao, etcetera.
In a statement, Governor Tyron quipped, “This will only be allowed once; again only once, and no more than that; because as a father, I could not bare to see an innocent one-year old child travel back to their origin at this distress”.
On May 16, students of the Commnunity Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM) were also reported to be stranded inside the school for two (2) months. PLGU-Davao de Oro learned about the incident through the information given by the municipal mayor of Maco who said that there were CTCSM students who came to her asking for medical clearances to get home.
Immediately after learning this, the governor sent the Provincial Inter-agency Task Force on COVID-19 (PIATF) to assess the information, and true enough, there arwere still students and personnel left within the premises of the school despite the province being placed under community quarantine. The students were also from different parts of Mindanao such as Agusan, Surigao, Zamboanga, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, etcetera.
In order to be given the necessary Certificate of Good Health that they needed to get home, the students were placed under a currently ongoing 14-day quarantine. The PLGU devised a special program to make the quarantine worthwhile for them, not failing to take into consideration their physical and mental health needs.
In fact, it were the students who decided what activities they wanted to do in the duration of their 14-day quarantine. The provincial government vowed to send them home through coordinating with their respective LGUs.
Landmark programs on youth, children
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PLGU rolled out programs and projects that promoted the welfare and well-being of its young population. For one, its Kusina ng Kalinga Program was widely applauded by many. It also has the Karunungan Program which aims to improve the reading proficiency of struggling students, the Bayanihan para sa Paaralan that aims to build schools in the province’s indigenous communities, its Compostela Valley Scholarship Program (CVSP) that provides scholarship to poor but deserving students, and the Sulong Dunong Program that aids students from poor families.
The PLGU’s youth council also observed diversity and inclusion, as all sectors of the youth were well-represented. Youth from Muslim and IP communities were given seats and were meaningfully represented, youth farmers, fisherfolks, and professionals were also given representation. The province’s Sangguniang Kabataaan also played important roles in this pandemic, helping their respective barangays and municipal local governments through the distribution of hygiene kits to households, information dissemination campaign, and many others.
Upholding children’s rights in times of crisis
In his Local State of Children’s Report last 2019, Governor Tyron reiterated his commitment to promote the rights of children and to protect them from harm, abuse, exploitation, and any other forms of discrimination.
This commitment was reflected in the policies that the provincial government insituted in the recent years, and acted also as fulfillment of the governor’s promise when he ran as a governor at a young age in 2016. In his words then, “Our children and youth will have a voice and an ally in the Provincial Capitol.”
Davao de Oro will continue to work hard to make the province a place of, for, and by our children; be it in the best of times or the worst of crises.