Cebu guv seeks ‘win-win’ solution to conflicting stances on arriving Cebuanos from abroad
CEBU CITY – Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has sought a “compromise” with the national pandemic task force to allow the implementation of the local arrival protocols for returning Cebuano from abroad.
“Allow us to do this for the Cebuanos, let this be a compromise that the PB Ordinance No. 4-2021 which has adopted EO (Executive Order) No. 17 will apply only for Cebuanos,” Garcia told members of the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) during the special sessions at the Capitol on Tuesday.
For non-Cebuanos, the IATF rules will apply. Which means that they will undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine.
“That is our request. Allow us to take this responsibility into our hands for we cannot govern with what ifs. We cannot possibly hope to achieve the welfare of our constituents when it is based on a model,” she said.
Garcia was referring to the report made by the IATF experts that warns of a possible entry of the deadly COVID-19 “Delta variant” with the supposed eased restrictions in the Cebu protocols.
The IATF was a guest to the special session of the Cebu Provincial Board held at the Capitol. Among those who attended are Health Sec. Fransisco Duque III, IATF chief implementer Carlito Galvez, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, World Health Organization country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe, and several experts from the Department of Health.
After the PB Sessions, Duque said that they have not closed their doors on the governor’s request.
“This will be subject for discussion in one of the IATF meetings,” he said.
Duque said they would wait for the Cebu PB to also write to the IATF their recommendations.
“This has to be deliberated upon by the IATF. There is nothing for me to say at this point because we are just here upon the gracious invitation of the governor and the PB. But by and large, it’s the opinion of the governor. My personal thoughts don’t count, my personal feelings don’t count,” Duque told reporters.
Nograles for his part said that he understood the point of the governor but these will be in part of a series of meetings.
“We need to chew on this (information) first,” Nograles said.
He said that the IATF is recommendatory and the final decision will come from President Duterte. He also said that a “uniformed policy” is much better.
“While we laud the interventions and the initiatives of the Cebu officials, I also beg of you not to put our guards down, not to be complacent and not to think that we have been successful in defeating COVID-19,” Nograles said.
Galvez is also pushing for a uniformed policy for returning Filipinos and a uniformed health policy is also ideal. He likened it to a military operation.
“The rules of engagement should be followed. The rules of engagement should be the same.”
Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino defended the quarantine protocols of Cebu, saying the national COVID-19 task force should listen as to why the province will be able to ensure a strict home quarantine instead of a hotel stay.
Dino said that he was able to talk to local businessmen in Cebu who are already willing to fund the purchase of electronic bracelets to be used for those who undergo home quarantine.
During the meeting held at the Cebu Capitol this afternoon, Dino explained that the only conflict between the IATF and the Cebu provincial government is the quarantine protocol and not about the testing.
“We are even testing twice–one on arrival and one on the seventh day,” Dino said.
Dino explained that those in home quarantine will be monitored efficiently through their bracelets and make sure they stay at home.
He said a home quarantine should be an option to all returning Filipinos from abroad and not imposed entirely with a hotel stay.
“Home quarantine is possible in Cebu and (maybe) in other places they are not applicable,” he said.
Last June 21, lawyers Clarence Paul Oaminal and Valentino Bacalso filed a petition in court to declare the IATF’s protocols for returning Filipinos from abroad, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as “ineffective and inapplicable” in Cebu.
The IATF wanted arriving Filipinos from abroad to undergo quarantine for 14 days with a COVID-19 swab test to be conducted on the seventh day from arrival.
Garcia and the provincial board, on the other hand, earlier required them to undergo a swab test upon arrival at Mactan Cebu International Airport and to go on hotel quarantine for only two to three days.
President Duterte recently expressed his disgust over Cebu’s defiance on the policy set by the IATF, prompting the governor to soften her stance, saying the province would now follow the task force but insisted that the swab-upon-arrival policy of the province should stay to determine who among the returning Filipinos from abroad are infected with the COVID-19.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.