THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) was requested to bring up the immediate concerns of Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia on commercial sea and air travel, in the next meeting of the National Inter-Agency Task Force (NIATF).
Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr., who is also the chief of staff of Secretary Arthur Tugade and who sits as DOTr representative in the NIATF, informed Leonardia that he will bring the mayor’s concerns before the NIATF.
Leonardia reiterated to Tuazon that the city government is asking the DOTr to “temporarily hold in abeyance” the commercial sea and air travel to and from Bacolod City and Negros Occidental come June 1, so priority can be given first to pre-arranged trips home of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and stranded residents.
“We welcome our OFWs and stranded residents but subject to availability of space in our quarantine centers. Thus, there is a need to coordinate and pre-arrange these trips with those in charge in Metro Manila so disasters like new local transmissions from asymptomatic carriers will not happen,” the mayor said.
Leonardia also cited the health protocols being implemented by the city since March, such as requiring the returning OFWs and stranded residents to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival here, that have worked well in its containment efforts.
However, the mayor said, 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.
“We understand the urgent need of the national government to decongest Metro Manila of these OFWs. However, we also need to quarantine and swab them again using RT-PCR test when they arrive,” the mayor added.
Bacolod had experienced receiving 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.
“Our quarantine facilities are limited and we have no testing laboratory yet that can shorten the quarantine period. We still have to send our specimens to Iloilo for testing and results come after 5-10 days,” the mayor said.
“Our testing laboratory at Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital is still under construction and could be in place this June yet,” he added.
“So, we fervently appeal that whoever is in charge in Metro Manila should pre-arrange with us first on how many can we receive before a boat trip or plane flight is sent our way,” the mayor said.
“Otherwise, our quarantine facilities will be overrun soon and we would have lost control over our health protocols here that have successfully worked since March,” the mayor said.
It can be recalled that Leonardia also wrote to Tugade on May 21 to raise the same concerns. The mayor has sought clarification from the 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 for both LGUs shall have ended.
Meanwhile, today [May 28] the governors and the mayors of highly urbanized cities of Western Visayas, as well as Office of Civil Defense (OCD-6) regional director Jose Roberto Nuñez and DILG-6 regional director Ariel Iglesia will have a teleconference to discuss issues they will elevate to the National IATF through DILG Secretary Eduardo Año and Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid. (PR)