Over entry of foreigners: Gov hits MCIA, DOT
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Lorraine L. Ecarma (The Freeman) - March 31, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has called out the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and the Department of Tourism-7 for continuing to accommodate foreign tourists to Cebu without coordinating with the province.

"It's been such a frustrating battle when fellow Cebuanos do not cooperate with us, do not join hands with us to protect Cebu and the Cebuanos," Garcia said in a press conference.

She said she learned of 38 Swiss and German nationals who took private flights from different parts of the country and were allowed to land at the Mactan airport without the knowledge of the provincial government.

This despite the airport having sent representatives during the inter-agency meetings of the COVID-19 Task Force.

Garcia said she learned from sources that the foreigners landed at the general aviation area at the Mactan airport and were checked in later to two hotels in Mactan, a violation of the safety protocols the provincial government has laid down.

Cordova Mayor Mary Therese Cho also reportedly expressed alarm over the number of Germans checking into hotels in the municipality.

"We have special treatment for all of these foreigners unya nahimo na ta dire nga dumping ground… I did not want to say that word but Cebu has become the dumping ground of these foreigners coming from all over the Visayas and Mindanao, and even Manila," Garcia said.

Last March 27, the province banned entry of all incoming international passengers. The ban also covers repatriated Filipinos like Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Through Executive Order No. 5-E, the province also banned all incoming domestic passengers.

Garcia pointed out that while the province does not have a ban on outgoing travels, there are other functional airports in the country.

Garcia called on DOT- 7 Director Shalimar Tamano to stop allowing entry to foreigners here, especially now that the province is on enhanced community quarantine.

"Kung duna mo’y paglaban sa Sugbo, ayaw na ni buhata ninyo," she said.

"Manila continues to function. Maka-afford man diay ni silag private planes, ngano wa man ni sila mag-private plane diretso sa Manila?" Garcia said.

As of yesterday, Tamano did not respond to The Freeman’s request for comment. MCIA General Manager Steve Dicdican, meanwhile, said he was just following the law.

Dicdican responds

In a statement, Dicdican said the foreigners arrived on board a sweeper flight from other parts of Visayas so they could take onward flights to their home countries.

“We are supposed to be doing the whole-of-government approach, but that cannot happen if LGUs arrogate the jurisdiction and authority reserved for the national government. We should all be cognizant of our boundaries for there to be effective collaboration.

“We were just as surprised about their arrival as there was no prior coordination with the airport nor with the Department of Tourism, but they are specifically allowed by IATF Resolution No. 15 to make such travel," Dicdican said.

Dicdican said the resolution mandates free and unimpeded access to and from the airport and hotel for stranded foreigners, notwithstanding any LGU pronouncement to the contrary.

He said the Bayanihan Act also provides that it is the President who has the authority to limit and restrict the transportation sector, and that all LGUs must act within the letter and spirit of all the rules, regulations, and directives issued by the national government.

He said LGU officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines are criminally penalized.

“I am just following the law and the national directive. I suggest LGUs do the same. The air transportation sector is under the authority of the President and the DOTr/IATF during this time of national emergency, not the LGUs," Dicdican said.  JMO (FREEMAN)

GWENDOLYN GARCIA MACTAN CEBU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
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