EVEN after Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia deferred the enforcement of her Executive Order (EO) 17 on health protocols for returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in deference to President Duterte, her party mate in the last two elections, the IATF-DOH officials led by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III were here Tuesday, June 29, 2021, to discuss the issue.
EO 17, now Provincial Board (PB) Ordinance 2021-04, requires swabbing ROFs and OFWs upon their arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and allowing them to go home after a maximum stay of three days in an accredited hotel if they test negative of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
The ordinance was later amended to swab ROFs or OFWs on the seventh day in their respective places of residence to conform with the IATF-DOH protocols.
In the IATF-DOH health protocols, arriving ROFs and OFWs are quarantined in accredited hotels and swabbed on the seventh day and only allowed to go home on the 10th day even if the test is negative and continue their quarantine at home until the 14th day. Those found positive will be sent to isolation centers for treatment.
The intent of Ordinance 2021-04 is to help reduce the expenses of ROFs since they have to pay for their stay in the hotel for 10 days under the IATF protocols while the OFWs’ hotel stay is covered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. When Governor Garcia enforced EO 17, Malacañang, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, ordered twice the diversion of Cebu-bound international flights to NAIA.
Could the meeting on Monday with Governor Garcia and provincial officials and the IATF-DOH top honchos resolve the issue? Governor Garcia calls her EO 17 an “innovation.” Those who support the EO believe that it enhanced the IATF-DOH protocols. They even accused those in national offices of imposing their imperialistic tendencies in the provinces.
What made this issue somehow complicated is that President Duterte sharply reacted, saying he won’t obey any order from the court in this time of health emergency after the two Cebu lawyers filed the petition for declaratory relief that practically pre-empted the judiciary of its action on the petition. Then jokes spread like wildfire on social media that no judge would act on the petition.
To me, this is not even a big issue that would get the attention of the Lower House or the Senate and the court. The problem perhaps lies on the fact that when politicians issue an order like the EO 17, which, without a doubt, is very popular with ROFs and OFWs, it gets politicized since those in the upper echelon of government are embarrassed because “super intelligence” is insulted.
My fearless assumption on the outcome of the meeting in the Capitol of the top officials of IATF-DOH on the one hand and Governor Garcia and PB members and local health officials on the other is that the Province will be given a huge concession on the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines if the governor withholds the implementation of PB Ordinance 2021-04 and perhaps there are other political considerations that we are not privy to.