PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to study the Provincial Government’s guidelines and protocols on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) arriving at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
This, after the President met with Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and other Cebu officials in Malacañang on Monday night, May 31, 2021, to discuss the matter.
Garcia made the announcement during her press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 1.
According to the governor, Duque has until Thursday, June 3, to learn more about the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) situation in Cebu and how the Provincial Government has been managing it.
“In the end, the President advised Secretary Duque to study our procedure here and see if this could possibly be a good way or innovation that could be adopted. Secretary Duque at first said that ‘Yes, we will discuss this but words could be different but our minds are made up,’ so the President had to repeat, to study so at least we did all that we could,” Garcia said.
During the meeting with the President, Garcia said Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist and spokesperson of the Department of Health (DOH)-Central Visayas, explained that it is the nature of the virus to mutate, which is why there are variants.
“So it’s not about totally eradicating Covid. It’s about being able to manage and contain it, which we have shown that these past 10 months in the Province of Cebu continues to be on MGCQ (modified general community quarantine). Let me repeat that. The Province of Cebu for the past 10 months continues to be on MGCQ status in spite of the fact that we have reopened tourism, that we have reopened economy and where we become sensible on our requirements for those coming from other parts of the country intending to visit Cebu,” Garcia said.
During the press conference, the governor presented data on the Covid-19 situation in the province.
As of Sunday, May 30, Cebu Province has 355 active Covid-19 cases, while only 89 of the 400 hospital beds reserved for Covid patients are occupied. There are also 2,415 available hotel rooms for OFWs and ROFs who need to be quarantined, while they’re waiting for the results of their swab test.
Garcia said officials and the public should understand that the Covid-19 situation in every local government unit (LGU) differs. That’s why the approach and case management also differ.
“Instead of ostracizing us by your firm commitment to the whole-of- nation approach, please look at the figures and realize that we LGUs are not similarly situated in terms of Covid active cases, in terms of Covid-19 response protocols and in terms of geography. That’s the most important,” she said.
In the meantime, Resolution 114 issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on May 6, which requires all arriving travelers to the Philippines to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, stays.
OFWs and ROFs will undergo quarantine in an accredited facility for 10 days. They will be swabbed on the seventh day. However, they will remain in the facility for the whole 10 days even if they test negative. They will spend the remaining four days on home quarantine.
Under the governor’s Executive Order 17 issued last March 30, OFWs and ROFs are tested for Covid-19 on arrival at the airport. They will stay in a quarantine hotel for a maximum of three days while they await the result. If the result comes back negative, they can go home.
On May 13, Garcia announced a new policy where those who test negative can leave the quarantine hotel but they would continue their quarantine at home, if they are Cebuanos, and then get tested again on the seventh day. Otherwise, they will be allowed to proceed to their final destination where they will be subject to their LGU’s protocols.
Garcia hopes the officials who will study Cebu’s policy will consider the plight of the OFWs and ROFs who just want to be reunited with their families.
“Every Filipino has a right to come home and be with his family so I hope that everything will work out in the end for you, our OFWs and ROFs. We pray that all will be well,” the governor said.
Last week, Malacañang had all international flights bound for MCIA diverted to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila from May 29 to June 5. (ANV / PJB)