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William Shakespeare once said “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” In Ormoc City, Mayor Richard Gomez seems like he is living true to this proverb.

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, the actor-cum-politician Richard shares the initiatives Ormoc City has implemented to secure the safety of people in this town.

Early lockdown

Days before the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented in the National Capital Region, Mayor Goma says he had closed the borders of Ormoc City. “On March 13, we closed our borders. From then on, outsiders have been prohibited from entering our city,” he says.

Aside from an early lockdown, the 54-year-old mayor also formed a Covid-19 Special Task Force that is divided into different clusters to make sure every aspect of this crisis is covered. “I immediately set up a Covid-19 Special Task Force. This task group takes care of all the things that need to be done,” he says. “It is divided into different groups, such as social and health clusters.”


ALL HANDS ON DECK Ormoc City LGU members in guidance of Mayor Richard Gomez do their best to provide the needs of their people in time of Covid-19 crisis (Photos from Ormoc City LGU)

When it comes to providing aid to his constituents, especially those badly hit by the pandemic, Goma and the Ormoc city LGU act swiftly. As soon as the lockdown was implemented, they immediately distributed relief packs that contained the usual items such as three kilos of rice and some canned goods.

Knowing that this type of food pack is not enough, they then distributed one sack (50 kilos) of rice to 67,000 households in the city.

“I know that if I continue to give small packs of rice, it will take so much time. Ang tagal tagal para mag-repack ang daming taong kailangan to do the work (It takes a lot of time to repack rice and a lot of people are needed to do this task),” he says.

“When we computed our funds, considering that we’re just a small city with a population of around 300,000 people, I told my people count all the houses and let’s give one sack of rice to each. Mas madali ang trabaho, mas mabilis ang distribution, at mas matutuwa ang mga tao kasi walang pinipili-pili (It’s easier, faster, and all residents will be happy because every household receives one).”


This initiative caught the attention of netizens. People are lauding him and the Ormoc’s LGU for this generosity. Busy working to keep his people safe, Goma discloses to Manila Bulletin Lifestyle that he wasn’t aware what they had been doing in Ormoc city had caught the attention of people online. 

Extending lockdown

If Ormoc is among the first cities to implement a lockdown, it will also be among the last ones to open its gates to the world again. Mayor Goma says that their city will keep its borders closed until May 30.

Naghanda na rin kami for another round [of budget] kasi ang closed down namin dito up until May 30 (We have prepared budget for a lockdown extension because we have decided to close the city until May 30),” he says. “Manila’s ECQ is just until May 15, but I told my people, until Manila and Cebu are not cleared, it is hard for us to open our borders because reinfection is likely to happen. We have to be sure that these cities are cleared first before we lift our lockdown.”

This decision might be economically challenging, but when it comes to public health this is surely rewarding. Ormoc city remains Covid-19-free and soon, even though they have decided to keep its doors closed, by next week, the city will be under a general community quarantine. This means that small enterprises can slowly go back to business. The same goes for provincial government offices.


“We will implement a general community quarantine. But the whole workforce cannot go back to normal yet. On the government side, we will be under a four-day work system,” Mayor Goma says. “We have to keep business running in Ormoc, mahirap kasi na walang trabaho yung mga tao (It’s hard for our people if they don’t have any source of income). What we’re planning—because we cannot sustain this for the long time, not even the national government can sustain this—slowly, the businesses that can open, we’ll open them already.”

He also said that it doesn’t mean they will keep their guards down. As a preventive measure, the LGU has decided that malls are the last ones that can go back to business. “But the malls definitely not yet because only 30 percent of mallgoers here are from Ormoc and the remaining 70 percent are from different municipalities,” he explains.

Through it all, Mayor Goma has a clear message for his people. “I always tell our people, itong Covid-19, mawawala lang ‘to depende kung gaano natin kabilis gustong mawala ito (Covid-19 will be gone depending on how fast we want it to go away). That’s why discipline is very important, that’s what will save us all,” he says. “When the national government tells us to do something, when the LGU tells us to do something, and when our experts tell us that these are the things we need to do, let us follow them. And I want to tell the people of Ormoc that this is now the new norm.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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