The conflict between the national Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Cebu Provincial Government on the protocols for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) has escalated into a legal battle and possible administrative sanctions.
Legal battle in the sense that two lawyers, in their capacity as taxpayers, went to court the other day and filed a petition for a declaratory relief. The petitioners want that the Cebu swab upon arrival policy will be adopted and that the IATF policy on swabbing on the seventh day will be declared inapplicable and ineffective here. (Declaratory relief refers to a court judgement stating the rights of parties without ordering any specific action or listing awards for damages).
From the start, this has been a health issue that differs only in procedures. The other day, Gov. Gwen Garcia issued Executive Order 23, reaffirming her position and warned airport stakeholders to follow the Province’s policy or else face administrative sanctions. This, as President Duterte ordered Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año to handle Garcia’s “act of defiance.”
In a report published by the Manila Bulletin yesterday, President Duterte asked the DILG to deal with Garcia, adding that there was a way to compel “obedience” after the Province insisted on implementing its own arrival protocols. “So, I leave the fate of Governor Garcia sa DILG. There are mechanics that can be put into action to compel obedience not because we want to be mas marunong (wiser), but remember I said all our decisions are based on what medical people say,” the President said.
Well, reading it between the lines, we can expect that DILG may initiate an administrative sanction against Gwen for her continued “defiance” of the IATF‘s guidelines. In fact, there was already a report that Año was planning to charge the governor for insubordination. With this development, we can expect more fireworks on this issue.
When the novel coronavirus hit Wuhan, China in late 2019, and spread all over mainland China, there were calls for the National Government to immediately impose a travel ban on Chinese nationals from entering the country. But President Duterte was very hesitant to implement a travel ban because of political, economic and diplomatic backlash by the Chinese government, whom Duterte considered his ally.
Until we woke up one morning sometime in January 2020 when the virus already entered the country via a Chinese tourist who entered the country via Hongkong and travelled to Cebu and Dumaguete and back to Manila. That single case was followed by another two cases, a Chinese couple. The husband even died in Manila until it rapidly spread in the country.
Officially called Covid-19 by world health authorities, it has levelled up now with more variants. Health authorities changed the variants from naming it after from the country where it originated to Greek letter alphabet like that being used by fraternities and sororities. Alpha is the United Kingdom variant B 1.1.7, Beta B.1.351 is the South African variant while the Delta B.1.617.1 and Delta B.1.617.2 are the Indian variants and Gamma is the Japan/Brazilian variants.
Covid will be a never-ending pandemic despite discovery of the vaccines and possible medicines in the future. We have to live with it until forever. Expect an Alpha to Omega variants in the near future.
Now, since our health officials are always threatening us with these newly discovered deadly variants, why won’t government impose a prolonged travel ban for the citizens from these countries infected with these variants? In fact, this is the main reason behind the conflict between the IATF and the Cebu Provincial Government.
The government has extended the travel ban for all inbound travelers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Oman and United Arab Emirates (UAE) until June 30. But why only up to June 30? Why not prolong it?
If our government will impose a travel ban, our politicians should not be afraid of any political, economic and diplomatic repercussions with these countries because there are several countries that are doing this and we are doing it for our own public health protection.
June 22, 2021
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