[UPDATE: 10 March 2020, Chancellor Digal announced the temporary suspension of all university activities effective immediately. Browse the link: http://bit.ly/2TZdSg9 ]
Chancellor’s Report to the President’s Advisory Council
Prof. Larry N. Digal, PhD
01-31 March 2020
Administrative actions in response to COVID-19
On 12 March 2020, the Davao City Government issued Guidelines No. 7 that stated, “All schools from kindergarten to post-graduate studies must cancel classes and immediately shift to online sessions or take-home assignments.” On the same day, UP Mindanao issued Memorandum No. LND 025, “Cancellation of Classes and Immediate Shift to Online Mode or Take-Home Assignments.” Most of the 836 UP Mindanao students returned to their families by the weekend.
The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) transmitted a Student Monitoring Survey online to check on their condition, which has received 322 responses as of 6:00 a.m. on 3 April 2020. However, a few students remained in the campus and in nearby residences (17 in the dorm, 27 outside) due to the distance to their hometowns or their family circumstances. The OSA is supervising the wellbeing of these students and maintains contact with their parents, throughout the quarantine period.
On 20 March, the university administration made a call for donations for the stranded students that brought in sufficient quantities of food and necessities from university constituents, alumni of UP Mindanao and other UP units, and friends.
The All UP Academic Employees Union initiated a donation drive "Pakikiisa Kapwa sa Panahon ng Covid-19" that generated cash donations for the janitors, guards, non-government service personnel, campus vendors, and the stranded students.
On 3 April, a “Message from the Chancellor” was issued to update constituents of university affairs. (Read the Message here: https://bit.ly/3dSW7rK)
On 6 April, a “Letter from the Chancellor: Bayanihan for Our Non-Government Service, Security, and Sanitation Personnel” was sent out to employees to gather donations for non-government auxiliary personnel. (Read the Letter here: https://bit.ly/2xV3FcV)
Although work was suspended effective 15 March 2020 through the memo NGY 20-44, a skeletal force has continued operations. Communication continues among personnel and the university networks through the internet, and work-from-home is carried out by some personnel. Others availed of the online trainings provided by the UP ITDC.
There are, to date, no reports received of COVID-19 cases among the university constituents.
An additional memo was issued to extend the class and office suspension to 19 April 2020, in consonance with the community quarantine period declared by the city government.
A diagnostic lab for COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 threat, the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Mindanao, headed by Dr. Lyre Anni Murao, crafted a proposal “to establish a mobile diagnostic facility for COVID testing in Davao provinces that do not have a diagnostic capacity …
The PhP21-million proposal includes the establishment of a biosafety molecular laboratory, upgrading and calibration of equipment, training of the frontline personnel to allow the facility to meet biosafety standards for highly infectious human pathogens, as well as one-month operational costs.
The laboratory will be operating in collaboration with a local hospital, potentially Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC), Tagum, Davao del Norte. This will be a private-government-academe partnership wherein funding will be potentially sourced from private groups and local government units …
This container van lab can also serve as a model that can be replicated in other sites of the country for accurate and timely detection of the disease. The lab also has future use for other infectious and emerging diseases.”
On 21 March 2020, Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib and Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon sent a joint letter saying, “we hereby commit and support your proposal to establish a mobile diagnostic laboratory … in the Province.”
On 6 April, Dr. Lyre Anni Murao, PGC-Mindanao director, made a site inspection with DRMC chief of hospital Dr. Bryan Dalid. Chancellor Larry Digal later announced, “We are already agreed to establish a COVID-19 testing lab at DRMC … in collaboration with Department of Health/DRMC, LGU of Davao del Norte and Tagum City and the private sector.”
Epidemiological models on COVID-19
A team in the UP Mindanao Interdisciplinary Applied Modeling laboratory, working with the UP Resilience Institute and the Davao City government, created mathematical models to predict possible behaviors of the epidemic. This was in response to calls from public officials for help in order to make science-based decisions. Two notes produced by their studies were transmitted to local city and health officials for their consideration.
The first note was, “Should the community quarantine be lifted soon in Davao City?” Based on the data from March 15 to April 6, the study team observed that Davao Region had a high case-fatality rate of about 13% in comparison to 4.6% worldwide.” They forecasted that the Cumulative Confirmed Cases of infected persons in Davao City “will continue to thrive.”
In conclusion, the team stated, “It is recommended that the local government should consider extending the community quarantine to a later date. The date of lifting the quarantine could be determined by additional observations that will update the parameter estimates.”
The second note was entitled “Learnings from Survival Analysis of Early COVID-19 Positive Cases in the Philippines” dated April 6, 2020 where the team observed that “among those who died, the average number of days from onset of symptoms to generation of the lab result was 9.4 days.”
The note concluded that “patients who are male, 75 years and older, and/or patients with existing conditions such as hypertension, kidney issues, and/or diabetes who begin coughing should immediately undergo laboratory testing.”
The note further recommended that “decentralization of testing labs is strongly suggested in order not to delay the testing of swab samples.” They emphasized that “laboratory results need to be available within 3 days after the onset of symptoms because having test results within 1 to 3 days after the onset of symptoms reduces the hazard rate to almost 0%.”
Furthermore, “Persons-Under-Monitoring (PUM) who are likely to be COVID-19 asymptomatic patients need testing as soon as possible, for early detection. Health workers should be tested as they are highly exposed to the virus.”
In closing, the authors stated that, "An honest and participatory involvement of the symptomatic public is urged in order to control the increasing COVID-19 death toll."
Other sectors of university constituents also contributed to the campaign against COVID-19.
•Employees provided some unused and excess acetate materials in response to a request from a group producing face shields for personal protective equipment (PPE).
•Student organizations joined donation drives in collaboration with their networks.
•A student organization produced a number of face shields and produced an instructional video for the production of the item.
•Alumni also initiated a donation drive to raise funds for the purchase of PPE for health frontliners.
•The administration disseminated among its constituents and networks the call from the City Mayor for volunteer health workers to augment the number of frontliners working in the campaign against COVID-19.
Knowledge creation and public service
Before the community quarantine period a number of academic activities we undertaken that, in retrospect, can contribute to development amid the COVID-19 threat.
[I]nnovative [S]tartups [K]nowledge [O]ptimizer or ISKO Bootcamp was held on 9-10 March 2020 for some 40 would-be techno-preneurs and start-ups who answered the call from UPGRADE, UP Mindanao's technology business incubation unit. The techno-preneurs/ start-ups will develop Information and Communication Technology products that focus on sustainable food systems and more, under the stewardship of UPGRADE, that will provide facilities and access to financing.
Dr. Bryan Gonzales, a visiting BS Food Technology alumnus, provided inspiration to undergraduates with his knowledge and flamboyance during his talk on "Metabolomics from a Multi-disciplinary Perspective" on 11 March 2020. Dr. Gonzales, a post-doctoral researcher specializing in malnutrition at University of Ghent and Cambridge University, explained the inter-connectedness of inter-disciplinary collaboration in the forum that was co-organized by the departments of Food Science and Chemistry and of Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science.
Atty. Raia Angelie Tumanda, a BS Food Technology alumna, gave a talk on "Philippine Food Safety and Trade Laws" to the MS Food Science class on 11 March 2020. Atty. Tumanda served in the Supreme Court of the Philippines and discussed cases she had seen governing the food industry and the liabilities of food producers. She also emphasized the need to protect intellectual property such as brand names, logos, and company reputation.
The labs of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC)-Mindanao were subjected to an inspection by a team of experts (in photo, 3rd -5th from left) composed of Dr. Lydia C. Pascual and Frederick John Navarro of University of Southern Mindanao and Research Assistant Professor Rohani Navarro of UP National Institutes of Health on 17 March 2020. The PGC labs and its equipment are newly procured and have been commissioned to accommodate service requests from academic institutions and other parties.
Farmers and residents of the Barangay Talle in the UP Laak Land Reservation were provided new livelihood opportunities on 11 March 2020 with a training and workshop on innovative flavors for banana chips. Building on previous seminars on sustainable agricultural production, making flour from banana, and processing banana flour into chips, the residents learned to create chips and “french fries” with new salted and spicy flavors.
Collaboration and university processes
Officials of the Army Reserve Command-Region XI presently based within the campus made a courtesy call to university officials on 17 March 2020. Current commander, Col. Ruben Matillano (in photo, second from left), offered their services for university needs such as for ceremonial color guards or other civic undertakings.
Administrators of the MS Food Science program announced the opening of applications for admission for the First Semester of Academic Year 2020-2021 on 3 March 2020.
The Search Committee for Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences announced the opening of the period for accepting nominations beginning 3 March. The deadline for nominations was later extended to after the community quarantine period.
Student and alumni in public service
The UP Mindanao League of DOST Scholars launched “IDEYAnale Initiative: A Free Scholarship Help Desk” on 2 March 2, 2020 with an Orientation, Tutorial and Review Sessions, and an Application Assistance Desk, that will run until April 30, 2020. This is in line with the UP Mindanao 25th anniversary and the goal of the Science Education Institute of DOST to increase the number of DOST Scholars in Mindanao. The IDEYAnale Initiative will offer these services for 50 incoming regular 3rd year college students who are interested in the Junior Level Science Scholarship Qualifying Exam in June 2020.
UP Alumni Association-Davao directors did a visioning exercise for a five-year plan on 7 March 2020 and took their oath of office, as administered by ex-officio director Larry Digal (right-most) as chancellor of UP Mindanao (left-right): Ramon Bien, Apple Legario, Bo Puentespina, Antoinette Principe-Castrodes, Marvin Sison, Bai Ashrafia Aymee Alonto “Toie” Biruar-Mitmug, Pedro Quitain III, Sherwin Ramos, Napoleon Concepcion, Rene Estremera, Marie Glenn Cedeño-Sorila, Eric Divinagracia, Allan Montenegro. Not in photo: Marianne Esther Aniceto-Guinomla, Krishna Hernandez-Balaga.
The UPAA-Davao undertook a donation drive that delivered food and personal necessities for students stranded in the Elias B. Lopez Hall dormitory and in boarding houses on 20 March and onward.
UPAA-Davao, Inc. launched a donation drive on 26 March 2020 to support public health and other service front-liners. They raised P104,513 in two weeks and delivered an initial donation of face masks to medical staff of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC).
Popularize UP through media
UP Mindanao/ faculty members were featured/ mentioned in the following news articles:
•“Villanueva: State universities, colleges, need raw materials, support to continue initiatives against COVID-19,” Manila Bulletin, 27 March 2020. https://bit.ly/2JEe53o
•"U.P. Mindanao keen to serve as coronavirus testing site in Davao Region for free," www.rappler.com, 25 March 2020. https://bit.ly/39TVHOB
•"#COVID-19 Regional Updates (03/24/20)," BusinessWorld, 24 March 2020, features proposed lab of UP Mindanao. https://bit.ly/3c5ifNW
•"UPMin keen to serve as CoViD-19 testing site in Davao Region," Newsbytes.PH, 24 March 2020 https://bit.ly/3a5dDGo
•“UP Mindanao proposes diagnostic program to test for COVID-19 in Davao City,” Manila Bulletin, 23 March 2020. https://bit.ly/3aQOQXC
•GMA TV show "Born to be Wild” broadcasts episode featuring UP Mindanao, 15 March 2020. https://bit.ly/2Rs0Bfj
•“Dancing as a life skill,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 March 2020 issue, features UP Mindanao Dance Ensemble alumni. https://bit.ly/3b0UlTD
•“UK, DOST Award P20M scholarships” Manila Times, 5 March 2020 issue. UP Mindanao and Dr. Aleyla de Cadiz are mentioned. https://bit.ly/2xjnYB1