LEGASPI CITY - The 3-year foreign -assisted STANDZ project to control and eliminate rabies in the Philippines in particular the Bicol region officially ended on June 21 in simple ceremonies in a hotel here attended by the implementers, partner agencies and other stakeholders .
Launched on September 1, 2014 the project under the name “Stop Transboundary Animal Diseases and Zoonoses” or STANDZ was initiated by the World Organization for Animal Health or OIE in partnership with the Australian government as donor and the Philippine government through the Bureau of Animal Industry and the Department of Agriculture RFO 5 as the implementing agencies. Its primary objective is to control and ultimately eliminate dog rabies cases in the Philippines through massive vaccination , advocacy and information campaign on Responsible Pet Ownership and strengthening inter-sectoral collaboration among implementers, partner institutions and LGUs.
Dr. Emerlinda Lopez, National Rabies Project Coordinator presented the highlights of accomplishment of the Project based on the four frameworks under the ASEAN Rabies Elimination Strategies which are : Socio-cultural, Technical, Organizational and Political (STOP). Under the Socio-Cultural component, STANDZ was able to produce baseline data through a Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey which served as guideline on the public’s understanding .
Under the technical component the project has greatly influenced the understanding of the LGUs towards implementing the Rabies program with the adoption of the strategies adopted by the project. For the organizational component the project facilitated and encouraged the creation of Barangay and Municipal Rabies Prevention and Control Committees and protocol and flowchart of practical inter-sectoral linking have been finalized and initially rolled out.
For the political component, the project was able to attain an increase in local chief executive’s (LCEs) support to the rabies program through manpower and financial support. Moreover, ordinances were made to guide and direct LGUs on the responsibilities of each sector.
Dr. Lopez also lauded the efforts and commitment of the Bicol team especially, Dr. Rona Bernales, the Regional Project Coordinator for the big success of the project.
Dr. Ronello Abilla, who represented the OIE Sub-Regional Office in Southeast Asia said that significant strides have been made with the implementation of the project but they will still be reviewing the accomplishments and their impact . These will be the basis for the declaration by the OIE if an area or country is rabies free. He explained an area declared as rabies free has a big impact on its tourism industry and Bicol which has a thriving tourism industry will stand to benefit from a rabies –free declaration. He added that although there is no assurance of future support from donor countries the national and local government have manifested continued support to the project.
Dr. Rubina Cresencio, former BAI director under whose term the STANDZ project was implemented said that the STANDZ project followed disease control model used to eliminate the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) which also affected the swine industry in several regions of the country. Dr. Cresencio who is now a consultant of OIE explained that Bicol was chosen as the pilot region because of the high incidence before of rabies cases in the region and because of its strategic location being the gateway from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao and vice-versa.
DA Bicol Regional Executive Director, Dr. Elena de los Santos in her message read by Luz Marcelino, chief of the Research Division acknowledged the efforts and contributions of the implementers, partners and stakeholders especially the LGUs. She said that aside from attaining a high percentage of dog vaccination what is also an important indicator of the success of the project is the heightened LGU and community engagement and involvement in the project as evidence in the creation of Barangay and Municipal Rabies Prevention and Control Committees.
On behalf of the governor, provincial board member and chair of the agriculture committee Howard Imperial presented the initiatives and efforts of the provincial government in addressing the rabies problem. He gave assurance of the PLGU’s continuous support to the efforts of eliminating rabies.
Department of Health Assistant Director Dr. Ernie Vera deplores that rabies has been around for years and could not be totally eliminated. With the gains made by the STANDZ project he urged everyone to work together to sustain the efforts that have done even without the external funding support.
Also present during the event were researchers from the University of Warwick in UK: Michael Tildes Ley and Kristyna Rysava who presented the results of Rabies Mathematical Modeling in Bicol region. Dr. Daphne L. Jorca of the BAI also presented the results of post vaccination monitoring in the Bicol region.
Mayor Patricia Gonzales of Ligao City also graced the occasion along with the provincial, city and municipal veterinarians, agricultural technologists and municipal agriculturists some of whom gave their testimonies and shared their experiences in the project implementation and vowed to sustain their efforts even after the projects has already been terminated. Each participating municipality were awarded certificates of appreciation and one unit megaphone and customized jacket as a token of appreciation for their participation in the project. (Emily B. Bordado)