SOME members of the National Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, including its chairman Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, appeared before the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) during the special session it held on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, to tackle quarantine protocols for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipino (ROFs).
They came. They explained. They listened. They left and flew back to Manila later that day. And that was that.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia presented them with a compromise. One that would allow Cebu to impose its own swab-upon-arrival policy only on Cebuanos while others who use the Mactan-Cebu International Airport as their port of entry to the country will have to abide by the IATF’s rules.
It was pretty straightforward.
Perhaps, officials from the capital didn’t expect such an impassioned plea from the governor, who was forced to raise her voice when her microphone suddenly shut down otherwise they wouldn’t have heard her.
That must have caught them by surprise. It did me. I later on found out that a power surge was to blame for the microphone malfunction.
Either way, the IATF should know that Cebu means business.
Garcia and local health officials have long accepted the fact that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is here to stay until the country vaccinates 70 percent of the population and achieves herd immunity.
We’ve had our ups and downs with Covid cases. Yet somehow, Cebu has managed to weather the storm, so to speak, because it didn’t panic.
It knows what it is dealing with. It has been gathering data since the health crisis began in the first quarter of last year and it used that data as basis for the guidelines that are currently in place.
Fifteen months into the pandemic, Cebu has managed to strike a balance between safety and survival. The close to five million inhabitants of the whole of Cebu, many of whom are eligible to vote in next year’s national elections, have been going about their lives since.
So they’ve had to make some adjustments living under the new normal. But they’re moving on. They’re moving forward.
Hopefully, IATF officials took note of that during their brief stay here in Cebu.
Duque said all points raised during the special session “will be subject to further deliberation.” We’ll just have to wait and see if the IATF will meet Cebu halfway.
Meanwhile, the governor has made it clear that Cebu should be allowed to plot its own course. Judging by statistics, it has been doing a good job in managing the problem.