Unvaxxed foreigners may enter Cebu–gov
CEBU CITY—Amid opposition from the national pandemic task force, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is implementing her order allowing the entry of foreign travelers to the province regardless of their vaccination status starting March 1.
According to Garcia, she is merely following the protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) which allowed the entry of foreign visitors to the country starting Feb. 16.
“I read. That is the difference with those [who] immediately react and go ballistic with just picking up a few buzz words,” said Garcia in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
“Hello? The IATF has been allowing unvaccinated travelers with their own resolution, only that it has been qualified. If you are unvaccinated, then you have to be quarantined for five days so it’s not me that is allowing it. It’s the IATF. That’s the trouble of not reading and not studying,” she said.
Garcia was referring to IATF Resolution No. 160-B and 160-D allowing the entry of unvaccinated foreign travelers as long as they will undergo mandatory quarantine for five days.
On Feb. 9, Garcia issued Executive Order No. 3-2022 allowing unvaccinated foreign tourists to enter the province as long as they could present a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result taken within 48 hours prior to the departure from the country of origin.
Unvaccinated tourists should also be swabbed upon arrival at Mactan-Cebu International Airport and must undergo a facility-based quarantine until the release of their second RT-PCR test result taken on the fifth day.
Garcia encouraged unvaccinated foreign nationals to get vaccinated during their stay in Cebu, saying the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine shall be made available by the Department of Health (DOH).
The governor said that the only difference between her EO and IATF Resolution 160-B was the provision that only allowed visitors from countries with reciprocal agreement with the Philippines on vaccination cards. Garcia said she scrapped that provision in her EO.
Last week, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya announced that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) was planning a dialogue with Garcia so Cebu province’s COVID-19 travel protocols would be aligned with the national government’s.
Based on the policy of the IATF, foreigners entering the country starting Feb. 16 must show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.
Malaya said local governments were “technically” not allowed to tweak national policies on COVID-19 unless they were permitted to go beyond what is required.
“Local governments may tweak if the policy is unclear or if the national policy allows them to go beyond what is provided but in this case, the policy is very clear as to the entry of individuals to the country,” Malaya said.
“I think moving forward, what we have to do is to dialogue with the province of Cebu,” he added.
In a separate media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Cebu province did not consult the DOH regarding its measure to accept unvaccinated foreign tourists.
She reminded local governments that measures crafted by the national pandemic task force should be implemented nationwide.
Garcia said she was willing to sit down with national officials and discuss her order.
“I am always open for a dialogue with the DILG. I’ve been waiting for a communication from the DILG but [neither] Undersecretary Malaya nor any other official has … contacted me,” she said.
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