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2021 highlights and challenges

Southern Leyte faced a double whammy in the year 2021. Aside from the lingering new corona virus (COVID-19), the year made a final bow with Super Typhoon “Odette” (international name, Typhoon Rai) damaging at least 80% of the homes in the province, as assessed by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
Let us go back in time and review the year that was 2021.
On January 2021, the province experienced a day of continuous heavy downpour causing the damage of several public and private infrastructures, agricultural land and natural resources, reportedly costing hundreds of millions of pesos in damages.
By February, Southern Leyte posted 6 Covid-19 active cases, while Maasin City had only 4 active cases and Eastern Visayas with 403 active cases. But on June 24, 2021 the province experienced a second wave of covid-19 active cases that surged to a whopping 703 cases, while Maasin City posted 158 active cases and Eastern Visayas with a total of 2,725 active cases. The high incidence was due to the COVID-19 Delta variant, according to the Department of Health. The first covid-19 related death in Maasin City was reported on January 6, 2021. During the first half of the year Southern Leyteños clamored for the government of a bigger rollout of the vaccines. Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross promoted saliva testing to detect the presence of COVID-19 in individuals. The month of hearts also saw teen pregnancies rate rising and also a total ban on hogs and pork products coming from African Swine Fever (ASF) infected places. The hog ban affected the local pork supply but encouraged local businessmen to raise more pigs, leading to a self-sufficient pork meat supply in the province.
On March, Southern Leyte for the first time got 240 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines brand, wherein medical front-liners and personnel were given priority. March also historically witnessed the Philippines celebrate the 500th year Gift of Christianity, as Limasawa Island was again recognized as the place where the First Christian Mass was held in the country. Limasawa Island was later featured in Philippine Postal commemorative stamps.
The residents demanded that the handling of local garbage disposal system must be improved and revisited, while a giant swarm of Crown of Thorns (COT) starfish were spotted devouring the remaining pristine coral reef formations around the Sogod Bay area plaguing both local fishing and diving resort industries. It was also during this month of April when there was a surge of COVID-19 cases, and consequently the celebration of public events and fiestas were frowned upon and discouraged, as restrictions were made tighter.
The month of May saw many environmentalists and residents question the propriety of the Maasin Coastal Road Project cum Reclamation Project, and the public project’s possible dire effects to the city’s natural environment and its last few remaining sea food source. They challenge that the government project will bury Maasin’s biggest (near shore) coral reef formations and mangrove forests that would in turn significantly decrease the remaining fish and seafood nurseries in the city, resulting to fewer fish catch for local fishermen and higher fish prices in the market.
In June, Tropical Storm “Dante” flooded big parts of Maasin City leaving in its wake millions of pesos worth of property and agricultural lands damaged. The “wedding month” also received the announcement that the election for representative for the newly created Second Congressional District of Southern Leyte will be included in the 2022 local and national elections.
July was burdensome as gasoline prices in Maasin City was noticed by consumers to be much higher than in other parts of Southern Leyte and the region, and slow internet speeds was complained by residents, hindering the province’s progress to the information age.
On August, a one-hour fire fight encounter between the Philippine Army and NPA left three dead in Bontoc town. “Ceasar’s month” also experienced a “Granular lockdown” in the first weeks of September that gripped Maasin City as more covid cases and deaths were reported.
The month of September saw COVID-19 cases continue to spike and alarm Southern Leyteños as Delta and Beta variants cross into the province. The start of the “ber” month witnessed local resident of Bontoc town rally against a proposed reclamation project that they challenged would endanger their town’s natural environment and resource.
On October, thousands of local candidates scramble to register for their respective elective positions as multiple national and local political parties rise in Southern Leyte. The month also saw Atty. Roger G. Mercado appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as the new Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary.
November witnessed the start of the much anticipated vaccination for children against the COVID-19 virus. The month of November also reminded all regular government workers that they are barred from electioneering and may face suspension, removal from public office or imprisonment.
The month of December gave Southern Leyte its biggest blow in years as Severe Tropical Typhoon “Odette” ravaged the whole province leaving death, physical injuries and widespread property and infrastructure damage estimated to be in the tens of billions of pesos.

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