Regional Director Atty. Bruce Ragas during the meeting for the joint memorandum circular on demographic vulnerability tool

POPCOM’s Demographic Vulnerability Tool (DVT) and its signed Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 2020-01 endorsing the DVT was discussed last May 5, 2020 (Tuesday) in Cebu City by POPCOM VII Regional Director Atty. Bruce N. Ragas with Regional Director Malou Salazar from the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Members of the Regional Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) with representatives from the Department of Health (DOH-VII) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG-VII).  JMC-2020-01 will be further endorsed to the local government units (LGUs) in Central Visayas by DOH-VII and DILG-VII.

JMC 2020-01 aims to provide additional data/information and technical guidance for national and local government agencies by using demographic factors, such as population size, spatial distribution or density and age-sex compositions as emerging variables in aid of planning, implementing and monitoring targeted interventions by LGUs to their constituents amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Demographic Vulnerability Tool (DVT) was developed by POPCOM as a new weapon against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that can be used in every local government unit (LGU) of the country to analyze vulnerabilities and for local government units to prioritize areas in the context of the pandemic.   It assesses demographic vulnerabilities of communities and households to COVID-19 infections in planning and implementing efficient pandemic response at the local and community levels.  JMC 2020-01 was officially signed by Francisco T. Duque, MD – Secretary of Health; Eduardo M. Año – Secretary of DILG; Ernesto M. Pernia PhD – former Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning; and Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD – Executive Director of POPCOM.

JMC 2020-01 agreed specifically on Strategic Actions which include provisions that 1.) POPCOM will provide LGUs with the DVT Tables; 2.) Have National and Regional Coordination Mechanisms; and 3.) Use of the DVT Tables in Planning, Implementing, and Monitoring Pandemic Response at the Community Level by Local Chief Executives (City and Municipal Mayors.)

Provision of POPCOM’s DVT to Local Government Units (LGUs)

To assist all local government units (LGUs) at all levels, POPCOM shall produce and issue to the LGUs relevant demographic vulnerability data for all 42,044 barangays in the country, of which 3,003 barangays are in Central Visayas, with 6 tables per barangay containing data of the vulnerability indicators.  These DVT tables will be sent to the LGUs through emails and may also be accessed from the POPCOM website (popcom.gov.ph) and www.rpo7.popcom.gov.ph in CV.  The 3,003 barangays in Central Visayas (CV) are in four (4) provinces (Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Siquijor), sixteen (16) cities – three (3) of which are highly urbanized also known as tri-cities (Cebu City, Lapulapu City and Mandaue City).

National and Regional Coordination Mechanisms

                DOH, DILG, NEDA and POPCOM shall constitute an ad hoc coordination team to assure proper implementation of the JMC.  DOH Regional Epidemiological Surveillance Units (RESUs) and POPCOM Regional Offices shall provide continuing technical and operational support to LGUs in the use of the tools and its implementation.  DILG and NEDA Regional Offices shall provide operational support.

Use of the DVT Tables in Planning, Implementing, and Monitoring Pandemic Response at the Community Level by Local Chief Executives (City and Municipal Mayors.)

Overall, the DVT Tables can be used to identify proper physical distancing measure in barangays or areas with high number of confirmed cases, suspect and probable cases and at the same time with high household or area densities (i.e. high number of household members).  It can also be used in identifying priority groups and areas for relief and support operations in the household levels and identification of the number of households with senior citizens particularly those living alone who will need more urgent target-specific assistance from the barangay. And to determine the households with more vulnerable population, thus requiring more specialized support.  It’s also useful in determining and estimating types and volume/quantity of support services for specific priority areas based on the vulnerability level and as basis in determining the more proper location of quarantine sites (e.g. the quarantine site should be located in less densely populated areas.)

Demographic Vulnerabilities in the DVT Tables

The Demographic Vulnerability Tool (DVT) Tables provide data on Population Size, Population Spatial Distribution, and Population Density; Household Size and Living Spaces;   and Number of Senior Citizens and Living Arrangement.

Population Size, Population Spatial Distribution, and Population Density

            As evidenced by the initial data in the country, confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections are high in urban centers such as Metro Manila.  Preventing further spread to more vulnerable communities should be the focus of local government action since the spread of the disease would be more rapid in congested communities and households because of the difficulty in implementing or observing social or physical distancing measures.  It can be considered that the risk of infection can be expected to be higher where there are very high densities in residences or housing units, transport or employment locations. 

Household Size and Living Spaces

Household size pertains to the number of people living in a certain household with common agreement for dwelling and meal preparation and consumption.  Basically, vulnerability to the disease is higher in housing units with crowded or smaller living spaces and higher densities (i.e. high number of people living in a small housing unit.)

            Within the context of COVID-19 a household with at least 4 members living in a household unit up to a maximum of just under 20 square meters can be considered as densely populated household and, thus highly vulnerable.  Obviously, physical distancing is more difficult to to observe in such dwelling units or households within communities with higher densities (e.g. areas with informal settler families) as it forces people to be in closer contact with one another.  In such areas, the concerned barangays or local government may need to set up facilities to isolate persons who are suspect or probable cases.

Number of Senior Citizens and Living Arrangement

            Initial data about the COVID-19 disease has established high vulnerability to specific segments of the population, notably among older persons.  Initial data from DOH reveals a high percentage of mortality among senior citizens or those aged 60 years and above.  Thus, households with senior citizens are likewise vulnerable to the impact of the disease (e.g. morbidity and mortality).  Preventive measures and policies, therefore also need to factor in household age composition to determine levels of household vulnerability and risk.

            Furthermore, vulnerability and risks are doubled among senior citizens who are living alone.  In addition to their weaker immune system and health coping capability, the risk is much higher because of existing prohibition for senior citizens to get out of their homes even in securing their household needs.  Without family support, senior citizens living alone are highly vulnerable to infection and other socio-economic implications of the disease.       

Undersecretary Juan A. Perez III, MD and POPCOM Executive Director explained to the IATF-MEID which ratified the use of the demographic vulnerability tool (DVT) in its 23rd meeting last April 2020 said that, “While we learn more every day about COVID-19 and know where it is spreading, we are always one step behind, because it takes two weeks to manifest itself in terms of confirmed cases. If we know where we are vulnerable, we can best defend ourselves and pursue the virus in the communities where it thrives, which is among vulnerable Filipinos living in cramped spaces.”

Physical distancing is truly difficult in densely packed barangays with small houses.  POPCOM chief Dr. Perez once explained that to effectively achieve physical distancing, most authorities require a minimum standard of 6 sq. m. per person. By providing these characteristics derived from the Census of Population and Housing of 2010 and using the latest population projections of 2020 that are both from the Philippine Statistics Authority, local chief executives can prioritize communities with large numbers of houses that are smaller than 20 sq. m. and with about four household members living therein, which only provides living space of only 5 sq. m. or less per person.

Writter:

Maria Lourdes A. Garillos,

Information Officer II, IMCU