THE first day of the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Cebu Province, including the cities of Mandaue and Talisay, on Monday, March 30, 2020, was marred by confusion.
Police team leaders stationed at checkpoints at Mandaue City’s border with Cebu City and Lapu-Lapu City were reprimanded by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia after she found out that two persons who were not exempted from the travel restriction in Section 15 of her Executive Order (EO) 5-O were allowed to pass.
She reminded them of the need to impose strict entry and exit measures.
"Exemptions for certain services are somewhat general for now, but I intend to tighten the restrictions over time,” the governor said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Among the areas of concern Garcia pointed out was the need for truckers to secure a cargo transport pass. She said will issue a memorandum to this effect.
Garcia also said the vehicle quarantine pass is not a ticket for Cebuanos to cross borders at their discretion.
Even doctors, for example, will still have to present a valid identification card (ID) at the checkpoint, aside from the vehicle pass, to ensure that only those with essential duties are crossing borders.
Garcia said she will also ask utility companies and other firms included in the exemption to submit a list of names of personnel who will be allowed to cross borders to work.
“Like what we did before, we’ll start with general, broad strokes. But slowly we will refine, enhance and finally tighten measures while we are trying our very best to control and contain this virus," she said, referring to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Since Monday was the first day of the ECQ, the governor understood that there might be a few setbacks.
She said she will continue to conduct surprise visits to ensure the situation at checkpoints improve.
Garcia gave each team leader deployed at the Province's borders with the independent cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu a copy of EO 5-O’s Section 15 for their guidance.
Garcia was accompanied by Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Col. Roderick Mariano during the inspection.
They visited eight of the province's borders with Cebu City as soon as the ECQ took effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Garcia had said there was a need to restrict entry to the province given the increasing number of positive cases for the Covid-19 in Cebu City.
Mandaue City Police Office Director Col. Jonathan Abella, for his part, said they will only require individuals to present a company ID and work certificate to pass through the city’s borders.
“We will no longer require the people to present vehicle pass. They only need to present their company ID and work certification," he said.
The first day of the ECQ was generally peaceful and they didn’t receive any reports of violators, he said.
He said they will allow employees of essential establishments to cross borders in accordance with Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes’ EO 67 and President Rodrigo Duterte’s EO.
In Cebu City, Mayor Edgardo Labella issued a memorandum to Cebu City Police Office Director Col. Hector Grijaldo to allow individuals and workers of exempted establishments to enter the city even without ECQ passes.
They only need to show their IDs, the mayor said.
Labella said he already discussed the matter with Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Ahong Chan, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes and with the Provincial Government.
According to his memo, the following individuals from Lapu-Lapu City can enter Cebu City by presenting their IDs:
* Medical service officials, personnel and staff;
* Emergency responders;
* Security service personnel;
* Members of the judiciary, prosecutors and lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office;
* Cebu City residents who are essential employees of the Lapu-Lapu City Government provided that they present a certification from the mayor’s office that they are required to report during the period of ECQ;
* Funeral services employees and immediate family of the deceased;
* Those working in the exempted establishment as stated under the executive order of Chan;
* Members of the media;
* Emergency rescue vehicle;
* Delivery personnel of cargoes;
* Other person as may be exempted by the mayor.
The following individuals from Mandaue City also only have to present their IDs:
* Farmers, fishermen, agri-business and other food producers or suppliers;
* Persons involved in medical services such as health workers, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) staff, doctors, clinic personnel, hospital staff, employees and janitors of medical centers and private caregivers;
* Pharmacists and employees of pharmacies;
* Persons involved in funeral services and immediate family of the deceased;
* Emergency responders;
* Law enforcers and authorized security service personnel;
* Bank employees, technical service support crew of banks and armored vehicle crew;
* Money transfer services;
* Groceries and convenience store employees;
* Laundry shop employees;
* Electric power generation, transmission and distribution employees;
* Petroleum tanker drivers;
* Gasoline station attendants;
* Officials and employees of water companies;
* Water delivery and refilling stations crew;
* Garbage collectors and sanitation or waste management providers;
* Public market vendors;
* Bakery workers;
* Food chain/restaurant staff and crew;
* Delivery personnel or cargoes - with or without load;
* Employees working at food and medical manufacturing establishments;
* Forwarders, shipping lines and container yards;
* Logistics/warehouse establishments and employees;
* Telecommunications officials and employees;
* Employees of cable and internet service providers;
* Government skeletal force;
* Judges and skeletal work force of the regional, metropolitan, city and municipal trial courts;
* Members of the media with valid ID;
* Employees of business process outsourcing and export-oriented businesses;
* Heads of mission or designated foreign mission representatives;
* Hotel employees who have existing long-term leases and booking accommodations as of March 25, 2020 or until the final client has checked out;
* Outbound international passengers and driver;
* Civil aviation-related services personnel;
* Construction and related services;
* Mail, courier, freight and shipping services;
* Services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences;
* Employees of other businesses later on classified as essential by Cortes.
These individuals from Cebu Province will only need to present their ID to enter Cebu City:
* Governor, vice governor and board members;
* Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals and Sandiganbayan;
* Ombudsman and deputy ombudsman;
* Congressmen from the Province of Cebu, Cebu City and the lone district of Lapu-Lapu City;
* Judge and skeletal work force of the regional, metropolitan, city and municipal trial courts;
* Regional and provincial directors of different national government agencies;
* Local government officials;
* Members of the diplomatic corps such as consuls and ambassadors;
* Employees of the Provincial Government;
* Employees of the municipalities and component cities of Cebu Province as authorized by the local chief executive (LCE);
* Prosecutors and the skeletal work force of their offices;
* The skeletal work force of other government agencies;
* Officials and staff of the Department of Health;
* Private and government doctors, nurses and other medical personnel;
* Hospital workers, administrative staff and janitors;
* Members of the PRC, but only for official functions;
* Media personnel accredited by the Provincial Government;
* Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other security personnel;
* Field personnel of the Visayan Electric;
* Field personnel of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District;
* Field personnel of PLDT, Globe, Smart, Sun and other telecommunication companies;
* All energy (electricity, fuel and petroleum)-related work force, including those who perform technical services;
* Officials and employees of banks and money transfer establishments; delivery personnel of vehicles carrying cargo and other essential goods with or without load (maximum of two including driver) subject to the observance of strict protocols;
* Persons with a preexisting medical condition that necessitates treatment in a medical facility;
* Persons involved in accidents and medical emergencies and one member of the family or household and a driver may accompany said persons.
Labella said those mentioned individuals are those exempted in the executive order of the respective neighboring local government units and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease.
The mayor also asked the Cebu Bankers Club (CBC) to continue operating even though the entire city is under ECQ and to ensure that all automated teller machines (ATMs) remain operation.
In a letter to CBC president Neil Yu, Labella said the banks should adopt uniform operating hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., except for banks located inside malls and government banks, which may operate up to 3 p.m.
He also said the banks’ skeletal work force must also observe social distancing.
In Mandaue City, residents flocked to the City Hall to secure border and vehicle passes, particularly those who work in Cebu City.
Some residents, though, told SunStar that workers who are exempted from the travel restrictions of the ECQ are being required to pay P90 for a barangay certification.
John Eddu Ibañez, Mayor Cortes’ executive secretary, said this is usually the case, but he asked village chiefs to waive the certification.
“In the first place, checkpoints don’t ask for certifications,” he said in Cebuano.
Meanwhile, Robert Go, Philippine Retailers Association spokesman, appealed to local government units (LGUs) to let their employees cross borders under strict compliance of guidelines by government agencies.
“Today as the first day of Cebu Province's ECQ proved difficult for our employees that needed to get to our corporate head office, our distribution centers and warehouses and our supermarkets," he said.
He said Cebu is composed of many cities and a lot of employees working in Cebu- or Mandaue-based companies reside in northern or southern cities or towns.
"We were willing to shoulder 100 percent of the cost of their transport by doing it ourselves. We were told that all employees of supermarkets would be allowed easy travel with the right documents so we were confident with these two solutions as we have over 800 employees in our corporate office supporting our different stores in the VisMin Region," he said.
However on Monday, he said they received numerous concerns from employees who were not allowed to cross the inter-city borders, their bus driver included, because they were told that only cargoes were allowed to pass.
They were told if they insisted on reporting to work, their employers must billet them in company staff houses, he said.
"Contrary to what most people know, we actually do have company-paid staff houses and we are willing to shoulder and acquire even more staffhouses for them, but most of our employees, when we asked them last week even before the ECQ, did not want to stay in these staffhouses because they wanted to be with their families during this crisis. We cannot force employees to stay in these staffhouses if they choose not to, which is why we opted to do the transport ourselves through our company bus, and work from home, for others," he said.
Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Felix Taguiam said they also encountered similar concerns.
"There are cargoes for the past three weeks. The logistics side is smoothly running. The situation now is most truckers, drivers and helpers are living outside Cebu," he said.
Taguiam assured that they are looking for a way not to hamper the delivery of basic goods to and from Cebu City.
His counterpart at the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Steven Yu, said businesses on the exemption list are still adjusting on the first day of the ECQ.
"Most of our employees did not report for work because of lack of public transportation and misunderstanding of the rules of the ECQ. Also, there are confusions in the checkpoints. Many are turned away for various reasons and they all went back to their respective homes," he said.
Many businesses which were supposed to open, were not able to open.
"But we are hoping that things will be better in the next few days. We will continue to push to ensure that the delivery of essential goods and services is not hampered. That's our social responsibility to the Cebuanos," he said.
Yu said they would like to appeal to the LGUs to continue to be open-minded, and study and learn of the missteps/room for improvements of the first day.
"Our purpose is only to ensure the delivery of essential goods and services," he said.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro said the first day of the ECQ in the entire Cebu Province was generally peaceful, although he admitted that certain kinks need to be ironed out.
He pointed out the misunderstanding between the governor and the police on who should be allowed to pass quarantine checkpoints as one of them.
He said he understood that some police personnel were still not fully aware of what they were supposed to do.
“We will adjust accordingly and we’ll communicate with the good governor what they need to do so they won’t have a hard time doing their jobs,” Ferro said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The police official ordered all police personnel assigned at quarantine checkpoints to comply with the guidelines to avoid any confusion.
He said a special lane will be set aside for medical health workers. That way, he said, they wouldn’t be hassled.
“My appeal to my fellow Cebuanos is to stay home and save lives and just pray hard and do not add misery to the people who are securing you. Do not add hassle to the people who are securing you. Just follow the rules, follow the different guidelines... and I think we would be able to survive this crisis,” Ferro said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Cebu City Police Office Director Col. Hector Grijaldo said 80 percent of the residents complied with the ECQ.
However, there are those who reside in the interior portion of barangays who need to be educated about the ECQ, he said.
Since Saturday noon, or the first day of implementation of Cebu City’s ECQ, they’ve arrested four persons who were engaged in illegal cockfighting.
“Internet cafés are supposed to be closed, but some remain opened. And they even minors inside playing games,” Grijaldo said in Cebuano. (RTF / JJL / KFD / JOB / AYB / PJB)