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Catanduanes gets awards as disease, insurgency-free province

Two awards of recognition were recently received in a row by the provincial government of Catanduanes — one, for its successful fight against a dreaded disease and the other one, for its victorious campaign in getting rid of insurgency.

The Department of Health (DOH) conferred the provincial government with the Disease-Free Zone Award which Governor Araceli Wong and Provincial Health Officer Hazel Palmes received during ceremonies at the SMX Convention Center of Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

It was for the success of the province in the elimination of lymphatic filariasis, a dreaded disease that for decades bothered its population with infections that lead to a disfiguring of the limbs called elephantiasis, DOH Bicol Regional Director Gloria Baboa on Wednesday said here.

The disease, spread by mosquito vector commonly arising from abaca farms, became endemic in Catanduanes starting way back in the early 2000s.

To wipe out the disease, a mass drug administration campaign was launched in the province in 2006 following a series of studies conducted by the DOH, starting with clinical examination of cases, mosquito vector assessment and socio-economic surveys, Balboa said.

Following results of these studies, the work for the elimination program was focused on vector biology and the application of global information system (GIS) in determining the spatial pattern of the vector in relation to household clusters, geophysical changes and changes brought about by farming or occupational practices.

After this pilot study, the elimination program started in 2003 using the combination drugs Diethylcarbamazine Citrate and Albendazole in the mass treatment supported by an administrative order issued by the secretary of health in 2004 that declared November as a Filariasis Mass Treatment Month.

Elimination strategies and activities, since then, have been institutionalized with the integration of the mass treatment scheme to other parasitic control programs that involved soil transmitted heminthiasis and schistosomiasis targeting 2016 as its end.

But as early as 2014, Balboa said, Catanduanes had already been able to wipe out the disease attested by the proclamation made by the DOH last August 19 that the province was already filariasis-free.

The second award recently received by Wong was from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the support of the provincial government in the “Bayanihan Program” initiated by the military that has helped a lot in getting the island province rid of insurgency being waged by the New People’s Army (NPA).

In a statement receive here over the week, the 9th Infantry “Spear” Division of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Pili, Camarines Sur, said the Catanduanes governor received the “Bayanihan Award” during the recent celebration of the 28th Foundation Anniversary of the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command in Lucena City.

The award, according to Maj. Gen. Yerson Depayso, the 9th ID commanding general, is in recognition of the Catanduanes provincial government as a civilian partner of the AFP in the government’s campaign against the terrorism of the NPA in the province.

In presenting the award, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gergorio Catapang cited Wong’s implementation of low-cost but high-impact projects in Catanduanes which directly address poverty, unemployment and injustice, thus, they were “a great help to end insurgency problems in the province,” Depayso said.

Also cited, he added, were the lady governor’s advocacies for protection and rehabilitation of the environment, youth development, empowerment of indigenous people and her efforts to improve response capabilities of the province during disasters.

A separate statement reaching here from the Office of the Governor said she had expressed her gratitude to the AFP, saying the Bayanihan Award is one of the most important and significant recognitions that she has received during her term as governor of the province.

Depayso said that it was cited in the awarding ceremonies that for the province of Catanduanes, year 2015 marks the resumption of its quest for inclusive development, taking advantage of the restored atmosphere of peace and tranquility disturbed for over two decades by insurgency brought in by the NPA.

Depayso said the province has been recently declared by the AFP as a “Conflict Manageable and Ready for Development (CMRD)” area given that the local insurgency problem had already been contained.—by Danny Calleja, PNA

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