February 23, 2024

We find the recent rise of gastroenteritis cases in Baguio City and adjoining towns of Benguet unfortunate and alarming, and we hope the swift response launched by concerned authorities will lead to the arrest of the cases in the soonest time possible.
As of the latest report of the City Health Services Office, around 2,199 gastroenteritis cases were recorded out of the 2,302 individuals who accessed the CHSO’s self-reporting platform, a feature that facilitated tracing of cases.
New cases may be expected in the coming days, especially since water from one sampling point that has undergone testing turned out to be contaminated with fecal matter after the city started testing water samples collected from different areas following the rise of gastroenteritis cases since Dec. 21 last year.
Though this finding is still inconclusive, the outbreak has definitely cast doubt on the safety and integrity of the city’s water sources as well as whether Baguio’s sanitation policies are strictly enforced and observed.
With food and water being essentials for human existence, residents have naturally become especially cautious when opening their water taps at home. Most also have stepped on the brakes on dining in food establishments, where more than 60 percent of those affected have eaten or consumed water in the past three weeks since the increase in gastroenteritis cases was monitored.
As admitted by the city’s chief executive, the gastroenteritis outbreak declared in the city is alarming as it affects public health. He also said it woulddefinitely hurt the city’s economy, which is substantially being driven by tourists and visitors, who would think twice about travelling to the city out of fear they would get sick during their stay because of its water.
The outbreak also occurred in an inopportune time, as the city is gearing up for the Panagbenga where millions of visitors flock to Baguio and therefore would shoot up the demand for potable water supply.
These are among the reasons the city government as well as stakeholders should get to the bottom and uncover the real cause of this health concern – one that is close to the hearts and stomachs of its constituents and of a city that is dependent on keeping an image as a world-class tourist spot, being a hub of excellent service, and one that is capable of providing safe and healthy environment for its people.
The tracing process and getting to the bottom of this “unusual occurrence” would not be a walk in park, but it is an opportunity for the city to implement its updated infectious diseases contingency plan, which is in keeping with the city government’s pro-active stance in dealing with disasters, which now covers occurrence of infectious diseases as an offshoot of our experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, and its thrust to enhance its disaster resilience capabilities.
The plan aims to provide an effective, efficient and immediate response mechanism during emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
While we acknowledge the city’s immediate action of tracing the origin of the water contamination and issuing health safety precautions to consumers, concerned authorities need a lot of catching up to do about enforcement of regulations in all levels in terms of ensuring a healthy Baguio community and having safe and sound environs.
We have never lacked of brilliantly-crafted laws and guidelines. The problem is on its implementation and in imposing of sanctions when these are violated, no matter who the violators are.
Let us not allow negligence make the city’s hard-earned reputation go down the drain.
In advancing as a highly urbanized city, we have to admit that we are paying a hefty price for not regulating our resources and affairs and seeing to it rules that we craft strictly serve its purpose.
It is a wakeup call – for all of us – who in various levels may have been heedless about the results of our actions in our goal of being hospitable to the hilt to maintain the city’s image as a favorite tourist destination.