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Cebu gov seeks audience with Duterte over quarantine rules for returning Filipinos

/ 05:02 AM May 29, 2021
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DIVERTED The Mactan Cebu International Airport has set different testing and quarantine rules for international flight arrivals on an order by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. As a result, Malacañang ordered Cebu-bound international flights diverted to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from May 29 to June 5. —PHOTO FROM THE MCIA FACEBOOK PAGE

CEBU CITY — Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the province would proceed with its own rules for testing and quarantining of Filipinos returning to the country via the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) despite an order to the contrary by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) that had prompted Malacañang to divert all Cebu-bound international flights to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) until June 5.

Instead, Garcia said she would seek an audience with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday in the hope of convincing him that her actions to require testing upon arrival and a shorter quarantine period for returning Filipinos were valid.

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“They say I am defiant. (But) I am not defiant. I’m just trying to look for the best possible way to implement policies that will not further burden our people,” she said.

According to Garcia, she could not do anything about Malacañang’s decision to divert MCIA-bound international flights to Naia from May 29 to June 5, which also requires arriving passengers to submit themselves to a hotel quarantine for 14 days.

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“I have no power over Metro Manila. It is beyond my control because my executive order cannot cover Cebuanos that land in Manila. We hope that this is going to be temporary because this is really an additional burden for Cebuanos from abroad,” she said.

Local protocol

The Cebu provincial government earlier decided to test all Filipinos from abroad upon arrival at MCIA, contrary to the whole nation protocol set by the IATF that testing should be done seven days after their return to the country and while they are on quarantine.

Based on Garcia’s executive order, Filipinos from abroad arriving at MCIA will undergo a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test upon their arrival and will wait for its result in a quarantine hotel for two to three days.

Those who test positive will be transported to isolation facilities.

If the result comes out negative, returning Filipino travelers from abroad who are not from Cebu will be allowed to proceed to their final destination where they will follow the protocols of their respective local governments. Those from Cebu province will be allowed to go home where they will continue to be quarantined. They will undergo another swab test on the seventh day.

Last Tuesday, Garcia revealed that she received information from Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Jose Velasco Jr., the president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, that presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra planned to sue her for continuing to be “defiant” of the IATF protocols.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, she said, was privy to the plan.

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Standing firm

To show she was not being defiant, Garcia said she asked Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino to arrange for her to meet with the President so she could explain the reason behind the protocols she set for international flights arrivals. “I want to meet with the President so we may be able to present how our processes do not necessarily defy IATF guidelines. We are innovating it instead in order to custom fit our situation here and also to understand that these OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and returning Filipinos are humans, just like us,” said Garcia.

“There has to be a humanitarian aspect as well as consideration for added financial burden to them (OFWs),” she added. Garcia said there was huge pressure to force her to suspend the province’s policies.

But the governor said she would stand firm on her decision and that it should not be considered a disrespect to the President.

“I will keep the faith because I know that I have not done anything wrong. I am doing what is right for Cebu and the Cebuanos,” Garcia said.

— DALE G. ISRAEL

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TAGS: Cebu, COVID-19, Governor, Gwendolyn Garcia, IATF, quarantine rules, Rodrigo Duterte
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