SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – After months of virtual isolation and strict security and health measures, Subic Bay Freeport is once again alive as its business and leisure centers are opening up for domestic visitors from the region and outside, as well as sports bubble games.
Earlier, beaches in and outside the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City and Zambales opened for vacationists apparently bored by staying home during the lockdown or quarantine.
This developed as health facilities and personnel in the Subic Bay Freeport are now ready for the eventual release and distribution here of Covid-19 vaccines under the much-awaited mass vaccination program of the government.
This was the assurance made by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma to Department of Health (DOH) officials who observed the simulation of Covid-19 vaccine administration in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone last Thursday, Feb. 18.
Eisma said that ever since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, the SBMA has prepared for any eventuality and has initiated various health measures to fight Covid-19.
“We don’t want to get caught empty-handed,” Eisma stressed. “With the anticipated arrival of Covid-19 vaccines, the medical team of the SBMA is all prepped up and ready for the vaccination program. We shall be prepared when it happens,” Eisma said.
Earlier, the country’s first-ever volleyball tournament to be held under the Covid-19 pandemic took place at the sand courts of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority on Feb. 26-28.
The 2021 Gatorade-PSL Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup organized by Philippine Super Liga (PSL) was held under a “sports bubble” concept approved under strict guidelines by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
The IATF through Resolution No. 79 issued on Oct. 15, 2020 allowed the PSL volleyball tourney subject to strict observance of, among others, health and safety protocols finalized with the SBMA, the local Regional Task Force Covid-19, and the local Department of Health Center for Health Development.
The Philippine Superliga (PSL) and the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) are also pushing through with their planned bubbles in Subic Bay.
Abraham “Baham” Mitra, the chairman of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), the governing body on professional sports, confirmed the developmenty.
“We thank the IATF for allowing the resumption of non-professional sports competitions in areas under MGCQ (modified general community quarantine),” Mitra said.
Like in pro leagues, de jure amateur competitions can only play in MGCQ areas under a bubble setup.
Initially, only professional sports events are allowed to take place amid the pandemic, prompting the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3, the Premier Volleyball League, and the National Basketball League to turn pro.
Both the PSL and the MPBL had earlier expressed their intent to stay as amateur despite the persistent calls from GAB, which kept them from playing on.
The SBMA chief said the agency is closely coordinating with the DOH for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and their immediate deployment for the Freeport community.
“But since the SBMA is not a local government unit (LGU), we are looking at various ways to gain access to vaccines, including a partnership with the Philippine Red Cross, or even private companies,” Eisma said.
She added that the agency would be prioritizing frontline health workers for the vaccination, along with senior citizens, indigent population, and law enforcement/uniformed personnel.
Should the vaccines finally arrive, Eisma said the SBMA could field a vaccination team that would consist of five doctors, 20 nurses, and two medical technologists.
The Philippine government, through a coordinated network of stakeholders recently conducted a full-scale simulation exercise of vaccine deployment to showcase the country’s readiness for the mass vaccination program. The simulation provided a view on what is expected to happen once the vaccines arrive in the country.
Dr. Jessie Fantone, DOH provincial director for Zambales who was here to review the Subic simulation, commended the SBMA for adhering to the DOH strategy in the fight against Covid-19, which is Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate (PDITR).
The SBMA Public Health and Safety Department (PHSD) demonstrated to the five steps in the administration of the vaccine. These are registration; pre-vaccination counselling and final consent; screening; vaccination; and post-vaccination monitoring, surveillance, and recording.
Chairman Eisma also pointed out that the SBMA has been at the forefront in the battle against Covid-19 since Covid-19 broke out in early 2020. Aside from its medical team, the Subic agency has established Covid-19 isolation and monitoring facilities and partnered with the Philippine Red Cross in putting up a swabbing center and specimen collection facility.
As of now, only one Covid-19 case remains active in the Subic Bay Freeport—that of a transient worker who tested positive last Feb. 10. Eisma said the last reported case among residents of Subic Freeport was in Dec. 24 while that among SBMA employees was in Feb. 5. (Armie C. Llamas)