How the IATF failed us in Cebu
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2020 - 12:00am

In Cebu City, by the time this piece is out in the press, we cannot yet say whether or not we would return to the previous General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or stay at the current Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). It’s nearly four months since we started our lockdown. At this point, I dare say that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) failed to follow the example of Taiwan where only seven people died and they are no longer on lockdown mode. Why didn’t they follow this very glaring good example? To maintain our political situation with China who failed to warn the whole world of this virus? If Cebu City remains under ECQ, it is also due to the failure of the IATF in not following the rules of Taiwan!

At this point even without a known vaccine against COVID-19 we must be like what Japan is learning how to co-exist with COVID-19. We already know the protocols needed so we would not spread the coronavirus, therefore we must no longer go on a lockdown, but only use it on a sitio or barangay level because we really need to restart our economy. Most of Europe is no longer on lockdown and their governments know that the virus still exists. So why can’t we do the same?

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Here’s some good news for Cebu. There is a report that the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), together with the GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), recently started operating the Philippines’ and world’s first airport-dedicated COVID-19 PCR testing laboratory. I actually learned of this from Andrew Harrison of GMR-Megawide when I interviewed him last month on my TV show.

As Mr. Harrison pointed out, what they are doing in MCIA is in compliance with the directive of Department of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade for airports to have a dedicated molecular laboratory. Truth to tell, last month the DOTr was completely surprised as MCIA was the first to have this COVID-19 facility even before Sec. Tugade signed that order for all airports to have such a facility. The airport laboratory holds a BSL-2 certification from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

When DOH-7 officials came to the airport to inspect the facility last month, they wanted to know the plans for this facility. But Mr. Harrison told them that (they were already inside the facility) all it needed was to put in the medical equipment. This 400-square-meter laboratory was designed to process 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day with test results available after 24 hours, the shortest time in the country to release swab test results.

This is good for passengers arriving from other places to get tested in a laboratory where they won’t have to wait for several days to have the results. As MCIAA general manager and CEO Atty. Steve Dicdican said, “When it became clear that testing capability was going to be a prerequisite for the resumption of international travel, we immediately embarked on the ambitious project of putting up the fastest built and accredited molecular laboratory with the capability to do mass testing and generate results in the quickest possible time.”

So kudos to MCIA, GMR-Megawide for preparing themselves for the “new normal” when the economy is opened up, though the virus is still present with us. Call this quick thinking, but this is why Cebu is always ahead of the national government.

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If you check out your YouTube reports which I do everyday, you will notice that the US 7th Fleet has sent two carrier groups to the South China Sea to show to the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) that China’s continued bullying of Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea has to be stopped. Just the other day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explicitly acknowledged that Southeast Asian nations’ claims over the waters, including the Philippines and Vietnam and echoing the International Tribunal that concluded that China doesn’t have the right to resources within its “nine-dash line,” which extends hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan and covers some 90 percent of the disputed waters. This is illegal!

In response to Sec. Pompeo’s speech, Beijing rejected what it called the “unjustified” new policy and accused Washington of “exaggerating” the situation in the area. What China is really doing is isolate itself when it fought India in the Ladakh contested area, where 20 Indian soldiers died, but China refused to tell its people that some 35 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers died in the fray. Then there is the case of Hong Kong, which was slapped with a new National Security Law. This means Hong Kong will no longer be the same Hong Kong that we used to love and visit. We will always support Hong Kong at their hour of need, and democracy is what they need!

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