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Gov yields to Duterte
However, Garcia clarified that even as she has set aside her newly issued EO, the swab-upon-arrival policy will still be implemented for OFWs and ROFs arriving at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

Gov yields to Duterte

Le Phyllis F. Antojado (The Freeman) - June 23, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  In her Executive Order 23 issued on Monday, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia threatened criminal and administrative charges against government officials and agencies that will not follow the province’s protocol for overseas Filipino workers and returning overseas Filipinos.

About 24 hours later, the governor announced yesterday she was setting aside her order “in deference to the President.”

“This executive order I am now setting aside in deference to the President (Rodrigo Duterte) even as we look forward to the scheduled meeting on the 28th of June with (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque and the same technical experts who had advised the President last night as regards the need to strictly  implement the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) guidelines,” Garcia said in an address streamed live on the Facebook page of Sugbo News, the Capitol’s news arm.

EO 23 warned all heads of government agencies that the provincial ordinance is in effect and that possible criminal and administrative charges may be filed if it be violated.

The night before Garcia set aside her order, Presidente Duterte had asked Cebu to follow the IATF protocol.

Swab-upon-arrival remains

However, Garcia clarified that even as she has set aside her newly issued EO, the swab-upon-arrival policy will still be implemented for OFWs and ROFs arriving at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

“Even as I set aside EO 23, we shall continue with the swab-upon-arrival policy. We have found that doing this gives us better control at those that arrive already testing positive. This shall continue at no cost to the arriving OFWs and ROFs even as the seventh day swab be administered,” she said.

Cebu’s protocol includes a test upon arrival, and once a negative result has been obtained, the returning traveler is sent home to undergo 14 days of quarantine with supervision of the barangay under the provincial guidelines. A second swab test will also be done by the LGU after another seven days.

The IATF, on the other hand, requires 10 plus 4 days of quarantine with the arriving OFWs and ROFs tested only on the seventh day while requiring them to be under hotel quarantine in the first 10 days upon arrival plus, four days of home quarantine if negative.

One concern, though, is that while the government shoulders the hotel accommodation of OFWs, it is not the case for ROFs.

ROFs’ hotel stay shouldered

On Monday evening, Duterte declared that the government will also be answering for the hotel stay of the ROFs using the remaining funds from Bayanihan 2. The funds will be coursed through either DILG or DSWD.

To this, Garcia said: “Allow me to thank again the President for announcing last night that the ROFs, aside from the OFWs, will not need to pay the hotels since this will be answered for by the national government. This certainly lessens the financial burden of our ROFs.”

The governor also thanked Duterte “for recognizing the wisdom of my plea that we give human consideration to the OFW and ROFs who come home mostly not for leisure but the greater majority of them come home to family emergencies.”

He ‘won’t obey’

President Duterte, meanwhile, said he is not bound to obey any court ruling pertaining to how Cebu is managing the COVID-19 pandemic nor is he exempting Cebu from the national protocols.

This was his reaction to the filing of a petition for declaratory relief by two Cebu-based lawyers who claimed that the IATF rule is not applicable in Cebu.

“I am a lawyer, I respect the judiciary. I can assure them we will follow the order, but at this time of national emergency, I would just like to inform the courts that I will not follow them... I will insist on what is necessary to protect the people. It is not what the legal books say,” Duterte said in last Monday’s meeting with the IATF.

Duterte said that he had assured Garcia that he would be fair but told her that the national government did not agree with her.

Duterte then went on to remind the courts that the pandemic is a matter impressed with national interest.

“Sa mga korte d’yan, wag n’yo na lang ipalabas kasi magkakaron ta d’yan ng impasse. I don't want to lock horns with the judiciary. I said nirerespeto ko. There are times that the courts can function normally, grant injunctions, but this time, I said, put to notice, di ako magpapapigil. I will not obey, the courts on the matter now,” he said.

While Duterte said he understands where Garcia is coming from, he also said he is leaving things to the Department of Interior and Local Government.

“So I leave the fate of Gov. Garcia to DILG. There are some mechanics that can be put in action to compel obedience...not because we want to be mas marunong but remember I said -- all our decisions are based on what the medical people say, period,” the president said.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, who was present in the meeting, did not make any comment.

Situation on the ground

So which protocol is being implemented in Cebu as of this writing?

According to Bureau of Quarantine-7 Director Terence Bermejo, the bureau is following the protocols implemented by both Cebu province and the IATF, which means that arriving OFWs and ROFs in Cebu and non-Cebu residents with no exception are mandated to undergo a 10-day quarantine in a hotel, as well as a swab upon arrival.

Apart from the swab upon arrival, Bermejo also said they will then undergo another swab on the seventh day.

MCIAA officer-in-charge Atty. Glenn Napuli opined that swab upon arrival has been “very effective in detecting early positive cases, thus, one of the effective layers in protecting us from the spread of the virus.”

“For that reason, our swab booths in the arrival terminal are always ready should DOH decide to swab upon arrival,” said Napuli.

DOH-7 Director Jaime Bernadas said DOH-7 is following the President and the IATF’s order, it being under a national agency, although it still closely working with LGUs.

Utmost trust

Meanwhile, OPAV Secretary Michael Dino said they have utmost trust that both President Duterte and Governor Garcia only have the welfare of the people in mind.

Dino went on saying that he respects the wisdom of the President and expects that all parties willfully and dutifully implement the IATF arrival protocols for OFWS and ROFs.

However, Dino also requested to the DOH-7 to continue, still at no cost to the arriving international passengers, the test-upon-arrival protocol that Cebu has been practicing since last year, considering that this key protocol has proven effective in allowing to detect cases as early as possible, while at the same time, continuing the IATF protocol of testing on the seventh day after arrival.

“We remain grateful to Gov. Gwen and the Cebu Provincial Board for taking good care of Cebu and of the Cebuanos. In this light, a dialogue between the Province of Cebu and the IATF will be held on June 28, 2021, and we remain optimistic that both groups will be able to find a practical compromise, one that will hopefully enable us to achieve that delicate balance between public health, economic welfare and humanitarian considerations for the greater good of all parties involved,” Dino said.

“In the meantime, we request the DOH-7 to continue, still at no cost to the arriving international passengers, the test-upon-arrival protocol that Cebu has been practicing since last year, considering that this key protocol has proven effective in allowing us to detect cases as early as possible, while at the same time, continuing the IATF protocol of testing on the seventh day after arrival. We also request the Governor to provisionally implement the IATF requirement of hotel quarantine for ten (10) days after arrival, at least until a mutually-agreed yet still effective set of policies and protocols may be reached in the upcoming dialogue,” he added. - Caecent N. Magsumbol and Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, JMD (FREEMAN)

GWENDOLYN GARCIA
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