Two suppliers of medical oxygen tanks were barred by authorities from passing through a checkpoint in Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City on Sunday despite the delivery service being allowed under the enhanced community quarantine guidelines.
Louie Bugayong and his live-in partner were supposed to deliver the medical equipment to a critically-ill patient in a hospital but a “purok” leader stopped them when they reached the checkpoint in Zytec Compound.
In an ABS-CBN News report, Bugayong said that they presented their permits and quarantine pass but the authorities refused to let them through, citing strict curfew hours in the area from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The incident was also recorded in a video uploaded by Facebook user Behb Sonamar, otherwise known as Gina Romanos.
She identified the “purok” leader who barred the supplies from passing through as Noel Talon.
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“Tinext kami ng nurse na kausap namin, sabi na kailangan na ipadala ‘yung oxygen tank kasi naghihingalo na ang pasyente. Kaya nagkagulo na kami,” Bugayong narrated over DZMM Teleradyo.
“Tinanong ko ‘yung purok papaano ang deskarte kasi ayaw kami paalisin. Sabi niya, ‘Edi mamatay ‘yan kung mamatay,” he added.
Romanos, the uploader of the video, also claimed that the authorities stationed at the compound have “harassed” them several times before, even though they are delivering authorized medical supplies.
“Maliit lang po kami (na) companya kaya nga po kahit kami mga may-ari ay naging one man team… kailangan magtulungan para mapagserbisyo sa kapwa,” she wrote on Facebook.
Bugayong and his companion were eventually allowed to pass through the checkpoint when barangay officials approached them after an hour.
They said that they would file a complaint after being supposedly discriminated despite working in the frontlines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The importance of oxygen tanks
Medical oxygen tanks are crucial in the healthcare sector. They are widely used in hospitals and healthcare facilities by patients who have severe respiratory problems.
The oxygen tank provides “more than 90 percent oxygen to aid the breathing of a person who has declining lung capacity due to illness or damage,” a report from The San Diego Union-Tribune read.
The World Health Organization described it as a “life-saving therapeutic medical gas” typically used for managing hypoxaemia or the condition when a body has an abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood.
It is also included in the WHO’s list of essential medicines due to its “proven life-saving properties, safety and cost-effectiveness.”
On ECQ guidelines
Based on the guidelines released by the Department of Trade and Industry, delivery services and operation of logistics service providers are currently allowed under an enhanced community quarantine.
Businesses can operate delivery services, whether or not it is an e-commerce platform or if it is in-house or outsourced.
The service must only transport food, water, medicine, pet food, hardware products or other basic necessities.
Cargo handling, warehousing, trucking, freight forwarding and shipping lines are also allowed under the current guidelines.
President Rodrigo Duterte in his national address aired on Monday night ordered the checkpoint authorities to provide transportation for the frontliners and service them to their destinations.
He also told them that they could take the frontliners to the nearest checkpoint and coordinate with the authorities present to provide them transportation.
“The police must stop at pasakayin ninyo itong mga babae na ito—ah mga tao na ito at ihatid ninyo sa lugar nila. Tutal kung hindi, kung malayo pa, ikarga ninyo,” Duterte said.
“Bring her to the boundary of the next barangay where she lives at tumawag kayo ng pulis doon, ipasalubong na lang and for that police there to complete the journey of the whatever,” he added.