MAYOR Evelio Leonardia has sought clarification from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on the re-opening of commercial sea and air travel in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental after May 31, 2020 when the current general community quarantine (GCQ) for both local government unites (LGUs) shall have ended and will be subject to review by the National Inter-Agency Task Force (NIATF).
In his letter to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade Thursday, May 21, Leonardia is requesting for a video conference with him, together with Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson to get guidance from the DOTr on the said concerns.
The City of Bacolod and the Province of Negros Occidental have both been placed under GCQ by the NIATF from May 16-31, 2020.
During this GCQ period, commercial sea and air travel from and into the city and the province remain suspended, except for occasional boat trips and plane flights for cargo shipments and repatriation of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and stranded residents. These are arranged on case-to-case basis depending on the availability of space in the quarantine facilities of the City and the Province.
“Our concern is: what happens after May 31? Will commercial inter-island sea travel between Negros Occidental/ Bacolod and other places resume? Will the Bacolod-Silay Airport now be opened for commercial flights from Manila, Clark, Cebu, and Mindanao regardless of the risk status and quarantine categories of these other places?” Leonardia wrote.
The mayor stressed that Tugade’s decisions on these concerns will directly impact on Bacolod and Negros Occidental in terms of their containment efforts against Covid-19.
Leonardia said Bacolod, together with the Province, has been implementing strict health protocols for people arriving by sea or by air (mandatory quarantine of at least 14 days and RT-PCR swab tests), and that these have worked well in detecting positive cases among the arrivals and isolating them until they become negative of the virus, before they are allowed to finally go home, to contain cases of local transmissions.
“However, we fear that these protocols will be imperiled by the sudden influx of arrivals into our City and Province from the resumption of commercial sea and air travel, if done without regard to our capacity to accommodate them in our LGU-managed quarantine centers upon their arrival,” the mayor added.
With this possible scenario, Leonardia further wrote to Tugade: “May we beg that commercial sea and air travel not be resumed in our areas, as yet, after May 31, 2020, regardless of the quarantine category by then of the City and/ or the Province.”
This is because Bacolod had experienced receiving arriving OFWs, some of whom later tested positive for the virus, he added. Since more of them are coming home, including residents who have been stranded in other places, the City and the Province have to maintain these health protocols to protect the general community.
In case Tugade grants the request of Bacolod and the Province not to resume commercial and sea travel just yet, Leonardia also offered a compromise: Inbound trips by air and sea can “continue to be pre-arranged” with the City and the Province.
“This way, we can still have some amount of commercial activity from transport of cargoes but we also keep in place our health protocols that have served us well in containing the spread of Covid-19,” the mayor said.
Leonardia’s letter to Tugade was copy furnished to lead national government agencies, including the NIATF, DOH, DND, DILG, DTI, Office of Civil Defense, NDRRMC, MARINA, PCG, PPA, and OWWA, their respective regional offices, and to Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of Covid-19 National Action Plan. (PR)