As the City Government of Davao aggressively rolls out COVID-19 vaccines to its residents to achieve herd immunity before the year ends, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte underscores the importance of reliable and uninterrupted internet connection across the city’s vaccination hubs.
“Connectivity is one major factor for a successful inoculation program. The internet is the backbone of the program’s communications. Reliable connection allows us to communicate faster, transmit data effectively, and make the jobs of our frontliners and organizers easier and more sustainable,” she said, emphasizing that the local government unit cannot do the vaccination program alone as it requires a whole of the community and nation approach.
Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte visits one of the city’s vaccination hubs. Mayor Duterte has underscored the importance of resilient connectivity in ensuring the success of the city’s Resbakuna program.
Mayor Duterte acknowledged the contribution of PLDT and its wireless arm, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) in deploying reliable internet connection in the city’s vaccination sites.
To fast-track the vaccine roll-out, the city has also been conducting sectoral vaccinations in partnership with the private sector and other government offices. Among these initiatives is the recent partnership with the Marino Partylist and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Region XI, through which Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their immediate family members were vaccinated.
PLDT and Smart have been providing data connectivity to more than 40 Resbakuna and COVID-19 facilities in Davao City, including the OFW vaccination site at Matina Town Square.
For Marino partylist, the vaccine rollout has been smooth so far–including their internet connectivity. “With PLDT and Smart’s internet service, we have not encountered problems in transmitting the data of the vaccinees from the site to the Department of Health, in compliance with the health department’s requirements,” said Remo Amatong, Marino Partylist Operations Head for Mindanao. “We purposely tapped PLDT and Smart to be our service provider for this endeavor,” he added.
Amatong said their goal is to inoculate at least 5,000 individuals from August 18 to September 2. Initially catering only to the departing and returning or repatriated migrant workers, eventually the program was also opened to the OFWs’ immediate family members, including parents, spouses, children, and siblings who are 18 years old and older.
“Of course, we have encountered some challenges. Most have been about the difficulty faced by the beneficiaries in following the vaccination procedures and the validation of the OFWs, but OWWA personnel were available on-site to help us confirm the status of the beneficiaries,” he said.
Seafarer Vince Jowen F. Fedillaga, 23, a recipient of the free vaccine, was grateful to the organizers and program partners. He said the entire process from registration to getting jabbed was smooth and well-organized. “I was supposed to be on board August 14 but I deferred my departure as I needed to undergo a minor operation. I was told to reschedule, prioritize my health, and get vaccinated first. Getting vaccinated was the first thing I did after a two-week post-operation rest,” he said.
Former OFW turned businesswoman Mercydita Delalamon, 33, hailed the medical team and volunteers for being patient with her, especially when her vital signs became unstable due to nervousness before receiving the vaccine. “The staff, nurses, doctors, and volunteers were all approachable. They were there to guide me throughout the process,” added Delalamon, who was an OFW in Belgium.
Dr. Jomayco Bacay-Tumuran, team leader of the medical inoculation team at MTS said his team is composed of five doctors, 15 nurses, and a couple of volunteers who are working on shifts.
For Charina Alvero, 41, who is a sister of an IT specialist OFW in Singapore said getting jabbed is a social responsibility. “Mao ni ang mas makabuti sa atong tanan. Based sa studies ma lessen ang risk sa imoha, pero di ta kumpyansa follow gihapon protocols. Maayo kaayo ni siya na move, nag initiate sila para makarecover ang sector (This is for the common good. Being vaccinated though doesn’t mean we should let our guard down; we still need to follow health and safety protocols. This initiative of both the government and private sector is commendable that will help our community recover),” she said.
Carmelo T. Elaya, OWWA 11 Chief for Programs and Services Division said the sectoral inoculation has helped many OFWs who are still awaiting vaccination schedules. He also noted that incentives offered by Smart like free SIMs and discounted price for load credits at the vaccination site contributed to the increased interest of OFWs to be inoculated.
For Fedillaga, the free Smart Prepaid SIM will help him to stay in touch with his family and friends as he awaits the schedule of his departure. “Daghang salamat kaayo sa Smart (Thank you to Smart), this will help me communicate with my family and friends more so now that I’m about to leave the country to work abroad,” he said.
This initiative to provide connectivity to vaccination sites is enabled by PLDT and Smart’s integrated fixed and wireless networks. To serve more customers across the country, PLDT and Smart have continued to expand their networks, including in Davao City. As of end-June 2021, Smart had increased the number of its base stations to over 68,500, an increase of 16%, compared with end-2020. This includes more than 4,500 LTE base stations deployed in the first half of the year alone. Smart currently serves the most number of data users in the Philippines at 39.5 million. Supporting Smart’s mobile network is PLDT’s extensive fiber infrastructure, now at over 524,000 kilometers nationwide as of end-June 2021.
PLDT and Smart’s initiatives to provide connectivity for all is aligned with the companies’ long-standing commitment to help the Philippines attain the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.