Sunday, September 19, 2021

Bzzzzz: IATF ban on Cebu-bound flights from abroad is short but rebuke on LGU not sweet. And unexpected: not the lawsuit they warned about.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and the Mactan Cebu International Airport (SunStar File)

THE ban on Cebu-bound international flights, scheduled to start 12 a.m. Saturday, May 29, until 11:59 p.m. June 5, came just as the province was assuring Filipinos returning from abroad via the Mactan-Cebu International Airport of enough isolation rooms for their stay here.

Earlier, news reports said, MCIA for two days stopped accepting flights carrying ROFs or returning overseas Filipinos and OFWs or overseas Filipino workers when hotels were filling up to near capacity. Governor Gwen Garcia had even asked CAB or Civil Aeronautics Board to junk the 300-passenger limit on international arrivals at MCIAA.

Reports also said that returning Cebuanos comprised only 20 precent of the arrivals; the rest were going elsewhere and just transiting via Cebu. The reason apparently was the relaxed quarantine protocol in Cebu: only three days of quarantine stay in a hotel before being released if a Covid-19 swab test result is negative.

In sum, Cebu rules, initiated and practiced by the Capitol, provided not only convenience and less expense for returnees, including many from outside the province, but also helped Cebu economy, particularly the local hotel business.

But the Malacañang order issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea ended all that, for eight days until next Saturday, June 5.

FAVOR TO MANILA HOTELS. Some people view the Malacañang move as a counter-strike by the IATF, which has quarreled with Governor Garcia, on the quarantine rule. The IATF rule requires at least 10 days quarantine at a hotel while the Capitol guideline requires only a three-day stay, before sending the traveler home if found negative of Covid.

The move could also be aimed to boost the hotel industry in Manila where, the international flights bound for Cebu have been diverted.

REBUKE TO GOVERNOR OR WHAT, the IATF move will have short-term adverse effect, economically or otherwise, since the ban on Cebu-bound flights from abroad will only be for one week.

As a reminder to Guv Gwen though -- as to who is calling the shots about national policy on the pandemic -- the "rebuke" is brief but surely not sweet.

The question now is whether the governor will backtrack on the Provincial Board-supported policy on quarantine and her vow to fight for the Cebuanos.

As watchers of "Ang Probinsyana" will say, "Atangi."

"PATUMANA SILA. P****** Y*** SILA." Other than the ostensibly for-health purpose, as part of the response to the national crisis, there is no explanation in the president's order released through Medialdea.

Instead though, sharply highlighted against the background of the IATF Capitol dispute, is the president's order on implementing existing protocols. Heads of departments, the order said, shall “ensure that all offices and instrumentalities under or attached to their departments abide by the directive,” while the DILG "shall enforce compliance with respect to the LGUs."

In sum, the president said to all department heads of all national agencies -- DOH, immigration, CAB, etc. -- Comply with national protocols, and to DILG particularly, make the LGUs comply.

In intent, if not effect, President Rodrigo Duterte was saying, "Patumana sila, p****** y*** sila."

'Sacred cows' in LPG trade

A public hearing Wednesday, May 26 -- which seeks to regulate public sale of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in refillable canisters -- drew memories from the Cebu City Council presiding officer, Vice Mayor Mike Rama. They include the scandal in the past linking a high public official to the illegal sale of LPG in butane canisters.

Rama said he hoped there would be no "sacred cows," as he implied there was one such high official before. I remember names, he said. He didn't know, he said, if other people had taken over and were given the same protection.

Door closes, window 'open'

Vice Mayor Rama titled his privileged speech about Noah, the soon-to-close quarantine site, thus: "As the door closes, window open (sic)." The title stood out because he mentioned it twice before he delivered the speech, indicating that it was no simple oversight.

The title though may be overlooked. The prospect of good news is high. From the vice mayor's initial information, Bigfoot Studios, owners of the Noah site, might agree to converting the use of the location for a mass vaccination site. From quarantine to vaccination and still in the service against the pandemic. Cheers to Noah.


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