Saturday, December 04, 2021

Espinoza: Who's to follow?

Free Zone

A TUG-OF-WAR is a popular parlor game during a big family or group event in an outdoor setting wherein two groups hold one end of the rope and the mighty and more powerful group, who can pull down the group on the other end of the rope to the border line, wins.

The situation now between the Province of Cebu and the IATF is akin to a tug-of-war. Malacañang just issued an order for the local government units (LGUs) to follow the health protocols issued by the IATF on the arriving returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIAA), while the Province of Cebu insisted on implementing on what it calls an "innovative" health protocol.

In the IATF's health protocols, the arriving ROFs or OFWs will be quarantined in accredited hotels and they will be swab-tested for Covid-19 only on the seventh day and if found negative, they can leave and go home. In Governor Gwen Garcia's EO 17, now a law per Provincial Board Ordinance 2021-04, the swab-testing is done upon arrival of the ROFs or OFWs and if found positive, they would be quarantined, but if they're negative of the coronavirus, they can go home right away. However, they would still be swab-tested on the seventh day at their respective place.

To recall, Governor Garcia went to Malacañang to see and discuss with President Rodrigo Duterte on her EO 17, now PB Ordinance 2021-04, which she calls an innovation to the IATF protocols for arriving ROFs and OFW, as it is less burdensome, especially for the ROFs since they don't have to stay in hotel for 10 days while waiting of the swab test result. The hotel stay of the OFWs is shouldered by the government through Owwa.

President Duterte referred Governor Garcia's EO 17 to Health Secretary Duque for critique. But even before President Duterte could issue the order on the issue, a week later, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire issued a statement that the IATF protocols implemented nationwide for OFWs and ROFs should be followed. Consequently, the rerouting of Cebu bound international flights was extended from June 6 to June 13.

The Cebu-bound international flights have now resumed at the MCIA. I would suppose that the MCIA officials are now in a quandary which protocols to follow and implement for the arriving ROFs and OFWs. In my column last week, I raised the possibility that the MCIA officials could be sanctioned by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) if they would implement PB Ordinance 2021-04 at the airport, or reroute again to NAIA the Cebu-bound international flights. And, if the MCIA officials won't comply with PB Ordinance 2021-04, the Provincial Government could also go after them since an ordinance is a law.

The present situation at the MCIA where two health protocols are at loggerheads although not actually contradictory, nobody appears to be a winner. On the other hand, the ROFs appear to be the losers since they have to empty their pockets for their 10-day stay in the hotel if the IATF health protocols were to be followed even if the representatives from the different congressional districts of Cebu and some Municipal Councils have expressed their full support for PB Ordinance 2021-04.

So, why don't Capitol and Malacañang come up with a win-win solution? Do the swab-testing on arriving ROFs and OFWs and let them stay at the accredited hotels for three days while waiting for the result, which in a way help the hotel industry. Why wrangle over a very petty issue.


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