I normally don’t start my column with a quote, but with the recent development, I find that I’m at a loss for words. So I’m going to borrow some from the internet.
“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”
I think this best describes the situation Cebu finds itself in amid the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia fought long and hard for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).
She came up with the swab-upon-arrival policy at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) because she believed this would ease the financial burden of ROFs, who had to shoulder the cost of their hotel quarantine, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the government agency which takes care of the OFWs’ hotel accommodation.
Because this policy mandates a maximum of three days in isolation, as opposed to the national government’s policy of 10 days, it also eases the emotional strain of being away from their loved ones.
But alas, the national government doesn’t see it that way and insists on getting its own way.
And so Cebu has been embroiled in a battle of wills that started at the end of May with Malacañang diverting all international flights bound for the MCIA to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. For two weeks, there were no international arrivals at the Mactan airport.
And yet, the governor stood her ground. She had all if not most of Cebu behind her. Local officials. The business sector. Legal groups. The hoi polloi. Then some national lawmakers joined the fray. And so did thousands of netizens, especially OFWs and ROFs and their families who stood to gain from Cebu’s policy, which is based on scientific data taken from the field.
But on Monday, June 21, 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte put his foot down and said Cebu must follow the IATF protocol.
And so the governor, in deference to Duterte, set aside Cebu’s policy in favor of the national government even though the former benefits a lot of people and the law, and I mean the Local Government of the Philippines, allows it.
In the end, both Garcia and the IATF are only looking after the welfare of Filipinos amid the health crisis.
And so she moved on. And so should the rest of Cebu. After all, the war is not over. Yet.