Covid-19 Pandemic Response
At the start of 2020 the Covid-19 global pandemic occured. The infection started in Wuhan, China at a food market that sold exotic animals for human consumption, according to initial reports. Specifically, reports mentioned the possibility that the virus came from a bat that had been cooked in a soup and served to customers at the market. The first human cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, subsequently named SARS-CoV-2 were first reported by officials in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. Retrospective investigations by Chinese authorities have identified human cases with onset of symptoms in early December 2019.
While some of the earliest known cases had a link to a wholesale food market in Wuhan, some did not. Many of the initial patients were either stall owners, market employees, or regular visitors to this market. Environmental samples taken from this market in December 2019 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, further suggesting that the market in Wuhan City was the source of this outbreak or played a role in the initial amplification of the outbreak. The market was closed on 1 January 2020, and from then on the virus went on to spread around the world. Scientific studies are still ongoing to determine the specific source of the viral infection. As of now, there are 36,002,827 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,049,810 deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization Covid-19 Dashboard.
In the Philippines, there are 331,869 confirmed cases of Covid-19 (as of October 9, 2020) and over 6,000 deaths. The local response has been to lock down cities and towns across the country resulting in one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world related to the pandemic. As a result, people have lost their means to make a living or, in the case of Medical Frontliners, they’ve lost their means of transportation to get to work in the hospitals, labs, and other similar facilities where the important work of handling the crisis is being done.
In response, Bike Scouts have been working as a community to provide bicycles as a means of mobility for frontliners and food and medicine for people that were isolated by the lockdowns. The work still continues to day, and the Bike Scouts community is still working together to help find solutions to everyday problems and the impact of the crisis on a national scale.
Batanes Search and Rescue
A fishing boat from Basco and Uyugan in Batanes Islands went missing on Thursday, 22 August. The boat’s crew was composed of Tinong Alviso (45 years old), Antonio Lizardo (53 years old), and Eduardo Elica (35 years old), they were last seen at 11PM between Siayan and Itbayat Islands by Byron Peralta of Bike Scouts BATANES who managed to hand the missing fishermen his handheld radio before heading to Dinem Island (Diogo) to seek shelter from large waves. The other boat that went missing was supposed to head towards Mavudis Island and seek shelter there.
However, the boat never returned to port even after a few days and had never made contact with anyone. Byron had instructed the crew of the missing boat to contact him on channel 8, or change to channel 16 if they need help from a passing ship. By then, the families of the missing fishermen had posted to Facebook about asking for help in finding their missing relatives. Byron reported the incident to Bike Scouts and the process to connect with the Philippine Coastguard, Navy, and Air Force in coordination with provincial government of Batanes, Rapid Emergency Telecommunications Team (formerly connected with the Philippines’ Office of Civil Defense), Cagayan Disaster Coordinating Council, and later on the Taiwan Coastguard.
For seven days since the fishermen were last seen an NC212i aircraft flew SARO flights over Mavudis Island and other nearby areas together with a Beechcraft King Air C90 and an Islander aircraft. Later on, the Taiwan National Rescue Command Center in partnership with the Taiwan Coastguard notified the Keelung Coastal Station in northern Taiwan, Kaohsiung fishery station, and Donggang fishery station in southern Taiwan to broadcast and request all the vessels to help search for the missing fishermen. The Taiwan Coastguard also instructed the 4 district commands located in southern and eastern Taiwan to task their coast guard duty patrol vessels to search the missing fishermen. In total, the Taiwan Coastguard deployed 4 cutters, 2 patrol boats, and 12 offshore boats with 273 coastguard crews onboard to help in the search for the missing fishermen.
After 7 days, the fishermen were finally found and rescued in Dinem Island off the southeastern coast of Itbayat Island where they had managed to sail during the severe weather that prevented them from returning to Basco. Their boat sank near Dinem when their anchor line broke because of the size of the waves and all three crew members were forced to abandon the boat and swim to shore.
Taal Volcano Response
Taal Volcano in Batangas Province is the second most active volcano in the Philippines, with 34 recorded historical eruptions, all of which were concentrated on Volcano Island, near the middle of Taal Lake. The caldera was formed by prehistoric eruptions between 140,000 and 5,380 BP (before present). Taal erupted on January 12, 2020 in what is called a Phreatomagmatic Eruption, a volcanic eruption caused by the interaction between magma and water.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert status to Level 2 at 2:30PM on January 12 and by 7:30 that evening they had raised it all the way to alert status 4. Throughout the following days there would be massive ashfall that would bury entire towns around the volcano, and there would be countless earthquakes that would result in damage to roads and structures. During this time, people from the towns of Laurel, Agoncillo and the city of Lemery were evacuated to camps outside the danger zone. However, a lot of people also chose to stay in informal and undocumented evacuation camps close to their abandoned homes because they wanted to care for the farm animals that they had to leave behind.
Bike Scouts operated for two weeks during the eruption, including the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Bike Scouts teams focused on delivering food, survival essentials, and medical supplies for people who were suffering from critical illnesses that needed a continuous supply of medicines. These deliveries were made with both motorized vehicles and bicycles. When the roads were completely shutdown by roadblocks Bike Scouts volunteer bicycle messengers rode 200kms from their base of operations in San Pedro Laguna to Lemery and back multiple times.