By Johnny R. Lee, Ph.D.
The Tawi-Tawi settings or situation with regard to response in dealing with the Covid19 pandemic conforms with the national or regional advisories from the Department of Health through its local health implementers.
Simple health protocols such as wearing of mask, face shields and social distancing have been vigorously implemented and followed, although just like any other communities in the country, positive cases of Covid19 infections did not spare the island province from the deadly virus. In my previous article, I mentioned that the entire province registered only .05% positive cases which is probably the lowest in the BARMM region which made it the safest place to live in and still the most favorable destination to visit. However the latter has not been encouraged but stifled in conformity with national directives to limit movements of people internally and those coming from outside of the province.
Looking into major aspects like economy and environment, Tawi-Tawi has its pluses and minuses to say the least.
The earlier segment of strict implementation of people’s movements from one community to the other and from within has devastatingly impacted the overall economic aspect of the province. More and more people lose their financial savings, especially people who earn their income day-to-day. Additionally, employers or business owners have adopted difficult strategies during the pandemic, as they face losing their businesses.
Many workers lost their jobs during the crisis, as their employers couldn’t pay their salaries. Industries such as airlines, tourism, and transportation, who have faced invincible outcomes, have sought for the government aid.
Because Tawi-Tawi is the biggest exporter of seaweed and large supplier of marine products, the crisis has also developed more force on organizations to balance the effectiveness and expense/gains of the international supply chain process facing the performance of the local supply chain. Converting to the local supply chain can lower the reliance on a broadly shattered international supply system. It could be said that the economic gains during the normal times have been downgraded by a very significant percentage in this time of crises.
Lately, the overall economic impact has slowly regained its old glory by making adjustments and injecting innovative ideas in conducting their businesses. For instance in Bongao, the province’s center of trade and commerce, one can see the proliferation and long line of small food businesses and services – which has an advantageous multiplying effect that goes down to the lowest food supply chain like farmers and fishermen from all over. The activity has also rendered incomes to the labor sector and transport services responsible for the movements of products coming from the vicinity and far flung islands.
But what is significant and truly amazing is the influence of the pandemic on ‘environmental sustainability’, which is reflected by the stunning environmental healing during this crisis. Several people from the island municipalities swore to the ‘changes’ that are happening around their villages, especially the surrounding seas and their traditional fishing grounds. Stocks of a variety of fishes and seafood animals are relatively in abundance and the coral reefs ecosystem are recovering from damages caused by man’s illegal activities like fish poisoning, dynamiting, and extraction for building roads and foot bridges. It has been anticipated that such a change in the global nature, in a short time, would not be possible without the pandemic and its consequences. JRL