Capitol sticks to own policy despite Palace order to obey IATF rules
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist and spokesperson of the Department of Health (DOH)-7, said this was agreed during a meeting with Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and agencies concerned Tuesday afternoon.

Capitol sticks to own policy despite Palace order to obey IATF rules

Le Phyllis F. Antojado (The Freeman) - June 16, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  The “swab-upon-arrival-policy” at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and the double swabbing for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) will continue to be implemented in Cebu.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist and spokesperson of the Department of Health (DOH)-7, said this was agreed during a meeting with Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and agencies concerned Tuesday afternoon.

“We just came from a meeting with the governor and I believe everybody knows already that the protocol will stand because of the ordinance and the Department of Health of Region 7 is just one of the agencies together with other stakeholders that also have, somehow, to follow the ordinance of the local government unit,” Loreche said.

Also present during the meeting were representatives of MCIA, GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, and Bureau of Quarantine.

This came just a day after Malacañang ordered the province to follow the protocols set by the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

But Loreche said the Cebu policy actually does not defy the IATF guidelines.

“Actually, if you will really look at it, hindi naman talaga tayo nag-violate. It has always been in compliant with IATF guideline on testing and on quarantine protocol. It’s just that we have to do some innovative changes primarily because testing upon arrival is an enhancement of security measures, making sure nga kadto bitaw mga positive upon arrival, we will be able to extract them already and will not allow them to be going around,” she said.

“The mandatory 10-day quarantine is being followed, but instead of the whole 10 days in the hotel facility, OFW / ROF with a negative first swab result is allowed to continue the remaining days of quarantine either in their homes or in the LGU identified facility,” Loreche also said.

Yesterday, 117 passengers from the United Arab Emirates and 143 from Qatar landed at the Cebu airport and were made to undergo an RT-PCR test upon arrival. They will wait for the result at a government accredited hotel.

The national government's protocols require returning Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers to undergo quarantine for at least 10 days and swab tests on the seventh day from arrival.

Senate Hearing

At a Senate hearing on the COVID-19 vaccination program and quarantine protocols that she attended virtually from Cebu, Garcia said about the Cebu policy:

“Allow me also to state that I also have great respect for the rule of law. In Cebu, we are not only talking about an Executive Order, but a Provincial Board Ordinance that was passed by our Provincial Board unanimously, adopting the protocols of my executive order. As we all know, a Provincial Ordinance, unless declared Ultra Vires in a proper court, is the local law of the land in accordance with Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code.”

Garcia said she will invite to Cebu the technical advisors and medical experts that DOH Secretary Francisco Duque always refer to for opinion, to present their own data and critique on the Cebu policy at the airport.

She also said she has deep respect for the President and acknowledges the great amount of support Cebuanos have for him.

During the Senate hearing, Garcia presents the COVID-19 situation of the province.

She told the Senate there are 187 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the entire province, which puts Cebu’s deaths at 1.2 percent, which is much lower than the national total rate of 1.7 percent.

She said that as of June 14, 2021, 79.8 percent of the 400 beds meant for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI), Influenza-like illness (ILI), and COVID-19, are still vacant.

Garcia pointed out that on January 23, 2021, IATF released Resolution No. 95, which states that “incoming passengers shall be tested upon arrival and shall be quarantined until the result of a subsequent test administered on the fifth day is released.”

On February 1, 2021, IATF also passed Resolution No. 96, which Garcia highlighted in her presentation: “Unless the passenger exhibits symptoms at an earlier date while on quarantine, Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test shall be conducted on the fifth day from date of arrival in the Philippines.”

It also states it would be difficult to monitor arriving OFWs and ROFs who have been found to leave their rooms during quarantine at hotels, which led to an increase of cases.

Garcia said she Executive Order No. 17 on March 31, 2021 because Cebu only had 2,500 rooms for 600 daily arrivals, which was causing issues.

The executive order, which was later adopted into a provincial ordinance, puts in place the swab-upon-arrival policy at the airport. The province came up with this modification to the IATF rules following consultation and inputs from DOT-7, BOQ, DOH-7, and Overseas Filipino Workers Welfare Association (OWWA).

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año was present in the Senate.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said earlier it will now be up to DILG to enforce Malacañang’s order for Cebu to follow the national IATF guidelines. — Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Dheif Daniel F. Yunting, USC Intern, JMO (FREEMAN)

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