COTABATO — At least 130 residents of an upland village in Tampakan town in South Cotabato, were rushed to various hospitals here on Friday night due to a suspected case of food poisoning.
South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Saturday the victims, mostly B’laan tribal residents, fell ill several hours after eating catered food packs that were served during a community meeting in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan on Friday.
She said the victims specifically suffered food poisoning symptoms like severe stomach ache, vomiting, nausea and loose bowel movement.
“We’re still investigating the real cause of the (poisoning) but it initially appears that the catered food was the culprit,” Fuentes said in a radio interview.
As of Saturday morning, the governor said 118 victims are confined at the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital and five each at the Socomedics Hospital and the Doctor’s Clinic and Hospital in this city.
Citing initial information reaching the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, she said residents of Barangay Tablu held a community meeting on Friday to discuss policies and processes regarding the selection of their representatives in local legislative bodies.
She said the National Commission on Indigenous People has been conducting meetings and consultations among tribal residents in the province in connection with said initiative.
For the Tablu meeting, she said organizers contracted a caterer from Barangay Kipalbig in Tampakan to serve food for the participants.
The catered food, which were packed in styrofoam and banana leaves, comprised a cup of rice, a piece of fried chicken and an egg.
Fuentes said she sent personnel from the Integrated Provincial Health Office’s (IPHO) epidemiology and surveillance unit to the area early Saturday to conduct an assessment and determine the possible causes of the suspected poisoning.
“We’re not only focusing on the food but also other possible causes like their drinking water,” she said.
Dr. Washington Loreno, Tampakan municipal health officer, said they sent a separate team to the site to assist the IPHO’s investigation.
He said they will also look into possible contamination in the preparation of the food packs by the contracted caterer.
Loreno said they are closely monitoring the situation in Barangay Tablu as they received reports that there are still a number of poisoning victims that have not yet received treatment.
“There are four victims that are still there and we’re currently working for their immediate transfer to the nearest hospital,” he added.