LAST week, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte announced that she has requested the Regional Inter-agency Task Force (RIATF) to tighten the borders of Davao Region.
"We wrote to the RIATF about [semi-]closing Davao Region [sa] mga travelers gikan sa gawas sa (to travelers outside) Davao Region. Ang atoang RIATF nagpa-comment na sila sa mga (the RIATF already sought the comment of our) local chief executive about this plan," Duterte-Carpio said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.
Department of the Interior and Local Government-Davao Region (DILG-Davao) Director Alex Roldan said in a separate interview that the mayor also requested for stricter regulations on the entry of private vehicles by imposing an "odd-even” number scheme on the plate numbers upon entry in the region.
"Ang isa sa mga di kaayo nabantayan is kaning mga private cars/vehicles. Kaning mga gasulod-gawas diri sa [region]. Relax naman ta niana. Kana ang gitan-aw nga basig mao na ang (The monitoring of private vehicles entering Davao Region has been eased. That is one of the things we are looking into as a) weakest link probably," he said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.
It was also reported that the city government of Davao is planning to require all inbound returning residents and non-essential travelers coming from outside Davao Region who are traveling by land to submit a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result before entering the city. This was proposed during the meeting of the Davao City Covid-19 Task Force.
On April 29, 2021, Roldan was quoted in a news report by PTV News Mindanao that the RIATF has approved the request of the mayor to tighten the borders of Davao Region.
"Naaprobahan na sa RIATF pero and resolution, atong guidelines gyud should be subject sa comment sa local government units (LGUs) kay sila man gud ang mu-implement (The RIATF has approved [the request to tighten the borders of the region] but the resolution, guidelines are still subjected to comments by the LGUs because they will be the ones to implement it)," Roldan said.
However, as of May 2, 2021 the RIATF has yet to issue the guidelines Roldan was talking about. It was also unclear when the guidelines will be released or when will the stricter measures be implemented at the region's borders.
But we have to point out that the announcement that the RIATF has approved the request of the mayor to tighten the region's borders was prematurely made considering that the guidelines are not final yet.
It was also unclear if the guidelines on the tightened border cover the requirement of a negative RT-PCR test result for those entering Davao City. Based on the statement of Lopez, the RT-PCR requirement is still being studied considering that there are no testing facilities in several areas outside the region.
"Ginastudyohan pa na sa Legal, because there are a lot of considerations nga kinahanglan tan-awon especially sa atong returning residents. Dili man gud tanang probinsya naay testing center (The legal team is studying it right now because there are a lot of things we have to take into consideration, especially for our returning residents. One of those is that not all provinces have a testing facility)," he said.
Due to the premature announcement on the approved tightening of the region's borders, there was confusion among the people especially that this went viral on social media.
Government officials should avoid issuing statements related Covid-19 guidelines, especially on border controls, when there are no documents to show to the public or date of effectivity.
One year into the pandemic, government officials and agencies should know by now the importance of communicating crucial guidelines like this clearly. We saw how unclear directions can cause confusion both to those implementing it at the borders and those going in or out the borders.
The general public will do its part in following the law but the government must be clear with whatever guidelines it wants to implement. Unclear guidelines and premature announcements would confuse and irritate the general public. Unclear guidelines make it also hard for the public to cooperate and follow.
We urge the RIATF, LGUs, and regional government agencies to be CLEARER with whatever guidelines they want to impose. Avoid confusion, be clear.