THE Cebu Provincial Board (PB) on Friday, June 11, 2021, amended the ordinance governing the arrival of returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to include a second swab test for the Covid-19 virus and revised quarantine rules.
The amended Provincial Ordinance 2021-04 was approved on second and third reading on the eve of the scheduled end Saturday, June 12, of the extended diversion of inbound international flights at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Following its approval, PB Member Celestino Martinez III moved to request the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to allow the international flights bound for Cebu to return to the MCIA.
The board also approved his motion to request the IATF to adopt the arrival protocols stipulated in its amended ordinance.
“I think we meet halfway on the IATF regulations. Now, the main issue is the diversion of international flights, which has affected our ROFs and OFWs, and even non-ROFs,” Martinez said.
“And I think we can resolve this matter because the ordinance has been amended and is already compliant with the IATF protocols,” he added.
The amendments, which reflect the requirements contained in a memorandum that Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued on May 20 and released on June 5, still differ from IATF’s arrival protocols except for the swab test on the seventh day.
The IATF requires all arriving travelers, except those fully vaccinated in the Philippines, to undergo facility-based quarantine for 10 days and undergo a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for the virus on the seventh day.
Even with a negative result, a traveler is required to complete 10 days in a quarantine facility and spend an additional four days under home quarantine.
Travelers who had been fully vaccinated in the Philippines are required to stay in a quarantine facility only for seven days and undergo a swab test only if Covid-19 symptoms develop.
Cebu’s amended ordinance still requires arriving ROFs and OFWs to take a swab test upon arrival at the MCIA. The test is free and is conducted by the Department of Health (DOH).
The travelers are to wait for the test result in a pre-booked quarantine hotel. If positive, they are to abide by the treatment protocols set by the DOH.
Section 5E of the ordinance now contains the provision allowing ROFs and OFWs who are not residents of Cebu to proceed to their destinations if they test negative for the virus.
Their local government units (LGUs) will be “responsible for the second RT-PCR test to be conducted on the seventh day.”
Cebu residents who test negative for the virus will also be allowed to proceed to their LGUs, but Section 5F now requires that they undergo “facility or home quarantine” for the remainder of the IATF-mandated 14-day quarantine for inbound travelers.
They are to be monitored by the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams. On the seventh day, they will undergo a second swab test to be conducted by their LGU.
During the special session, PB Member Glenn Anthony Soco said they were willing to dialogue with the IATF to resolve the issue by June 13.
“Our ordinance or policy can stand as it is. However, I’m in the belief that we have to appeal and we would like to work with the Inter-Agency Task Force on how to arrive at a solution on how to make the lives of the Filipinos better, not just the overseas Filipinos but our constituents in general,” he said.
“To me we are not defying, we are not antagonizing, we are not contradicting. It is just the way we do our jobs,” he added.
The Office of the Executive Secretary (OES), on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, first rerouted the MCIA-bound international flights to NAIA on May 29 to June 5.
On June 6, the international flights returned to the MCIA in the absence of a new advisory from Malacañang.
On June 7, however, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. announced a new OES memorandum dated June 5 that extended the diversion of the flights to NAIA to ensure that the IATF protocols will be followed at the MCIA upon resumption.
PB Member John Ismael Borgonia, who authored Ordinance 2021-04, reiterated that the measure is legal and anchored on the Local Government Code.
“The executive order creating the IATF should still conform to the Local Government Code, which grants local autonomy,” he said. He also cited Section 105 of the law, which limits national government supervision and control to six months during epidemics. This can only be extended with the concurrence of the LGU.
Vice-Gov. Hilario Davide III, for his part, said diverting the flights to NAIA will add to the congestion there and entail additional expenses for the affected passengers.
Meanwhile, Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Francis Tolentino as well as the municipal governments of Dumanjug and Ginatilan also expressed their support for Cebu’s arrival protocols. / ANV / MVI