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Advancing comms efforts vs fake news, scaling-up COVID vax

Driven to address the demand generation in Zamboanga Peninsula (ZAMPEN) and go against fake news about the COVID-19 vaccines, the provincial, city, and government agencies’ Health, Education, and Promotion Officers (HEPO) and representatives, comprising the Regional COVID-19  Strategic Communications (StratCom) Committee convened to boost its communication initiatives.

“Our message is grab the vaccine while it is free. We need to address the cultures and beliefs that cause conflict with the roll-out of the vaccine. We have to practice cascading a unified message. Messages from the higher-ups, down to the grassroots should be the same – no addition and subtraction of words. It should be exact,” said Regional Director Noemi B. Edaga of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-9 and chairperson of StratCom COVID-19.

Hoping to address the issues and concerns of Local Government Units (LGUs) and other sectors on the vaccination roll-out, representatives from the provinces and cities, presented their best practices for preventing COVID-19 and the Pinaslakas campaign. These strategies include house-to-house vaccination, giving out free rice, and granting raffle prizes for vaccinated individuals. A massive distribution of information, education, and communication (IEC) materials was conducted for the general public, including promotional videos and brochures that were translated into local dialects to avoid fake news and for easy understanding of people on the ground. The Barangay Information Officer’s Network (BION) was established and provided with monthly incentives, was also very helpful in the dissemination of information on the ground.

Everyone's initiative in bringing the right information to the public was pivotal to the success of the COVID-19 vaccination. The StratCom has strongly recommended also for the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF) to formulate a stricter policy to ramp up and scale-up the vaccination activities of the LGUs and meet the demand for vaccination rites in the region. They also suggest for the Department of Health (DOH) to orient information multipliers and social media handlers on how to handle and respond to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) of the general public.

DepEd-9 worries learners’ health amidst return of f2f classes  

The resumption of face-to-face classes filled the classrooms with excited learners and teachers thrilled to educate them. This comes also with the worry of the possible rapid spread of COVID-19 cases.

The Department of Education (DepEd) in ZamPen only records 33.35% of inoculated learners or 287,773 out of 862,894 pupils.

This is even with the communication efforts of the agency including its Health Personnel Orientation, Pediatric vaccination, school vaccination campaign and information drive, the roll-out of webinar series on coping with stress brought by the pandemic, monitoring of school health and safety protocols, orientation on child safeguarding, and revisiting its safety health protocols and crafting anew. DepEd also actively participated in the roll-out of school-based COVID-19 vaccination, Oplan Bisita, Pinaslakas advocacy to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of elementary and high schools, and other campaigns like Bidakid, Pinaslakas and Resbakunakids.

“There’s an executive order telling that all students should be enrolled regardless if they are vaccinated or not,” said Dahlia Paragas, information officer of DepEd-9.

As per DepEd mandate, they would want to have one message cascaded to the general public nationwide. It is on the national level that the issue arises and regional offices can’t amend pronouncements.

Roldan Ferrer, HEPO of DOH-9 said there are still no resolutions made for the creation of stronger policy. Hence, they will still raise the concern to their top management.

Effective November 2, 2022, there will be no modular and online learning nationwide. 

Paragas urge the stratcom member agencies to actively help the LGUs to address the concerns of unvaccinated learners saying this should be a concerted effort and should be solved through a one government approach.

In Isabela City, Basilan, Information Officer Mendry Ann A. Lim admitted how difficult it was to convince people in Isabela to be inoculated. Hence, they doubled their efforts and purposefully visited even the far-flung barangays to inform them of the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, the LGU has logged a distinct rise in its number of vaccinated population.

Happy Isabela, Basilan

Gone are the days when one thinks of terror when we say Isabela City, Basilan.

True to their tagline, HAPIsabela welcomed the Regional COVID-19 StratCom team with the cheerful sound of drums and lyre, as well as beautiful majorettes in their blazing red costumes.

The LGU has achieved 70% herd immunity with 85% inoculated for the first dose, 79% for 2nd dose, and around 60% for booster vaccination.

With this, Isabela’s tourism is back in shape. Tourists can now enjoy the beautiful and scenic spots of HAPIsabela.

There's the 20th-century Roman Catholic Cathedral -- the Saint Elizabeth of Portugal Cathedral Parish, also known as Santa Isabel Cathedral or Isabela Cathedral,  located at the heart of Poblacion. 

The Cabunbata Falls, a 10-minute drive away from the city, just along the highway. Visitors can be refreshed with its cold and refreshing overflowing water.

Tagima Quincentennial Historical Marker was part of the first circumnavigation of the world, the stop made by the Magellan-Elcano Expedition from 1519 to 1522. The marker commemorates the pre-colonial ancestors who contributed to the achievement of Science and Humankind. It is situated on the shoreline of Fuego-Fuego Beach – distinctly noticeable to all boats and vessels traveling across the Isabela Channel to the port of the city.

Above all these, is Malamawi Pahali White Beach -- famous for its fine, white sand and crystal clear, turquoise water, this is a must-visit destination for every tourist in the Philippines. The management offers day and overnight stays, perfect for holidays and random-get-away. The beach also serves appetizing food, which you will crave for!

Rich in beauty, culture, and history, every person to step into Isabela City, Basilan Province will be happy as they call themselves, HAPIsabela. The wellness and health of the people and the community is of utmost importance. For Isabela City, for example, it is a mantra that a happy community is a healthy and progressive one. (RVC/EDT/CCP/PIA9) (20221004)

About the Author

Clennkei Peñalosa

Information Officer

Region 9

Clennkei C. Peñalosa is a member of the Subanen Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) who earn a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcasting at the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) and is currently pursuing her Juris Doctor degree. A content creator and writer, she writes news and feature stories in Zamboanga Peninsula and manages PIA9's social media platforms.

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