Gwen not keen to adopt ‘whole-of-nation’ rule in testing returning OFWs
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Several national government officials once again earned the ire of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, and this time over the province’s decision that swayed away from national protocols.
Garcia, in a press conference from Camotes Island that was also broadcasted through social media on May 3, said she will stick with the Capitol’s policy to test returning Filipinos from abroad upon their arrival here.
This after she reported that advisers from the Department of Health’s (DOH) central office allegedly recommended to the national government’s anti-COVID task force for Cebu province to follow the standard for testing returning overseas Filipinos – which is to collect swab samples from travelers on the sixth day since their arrival here in the country.
“Cebu is under control. We know what we are doing here… I don’t know why they are so focused here in Cebu. Ayaw lang mi hilabti, mosunod lang ta sa balaod (Don’t mess with us, let us just follow the law),” said Garcia.
In addition to this, the governor said she will be asking the Provincial Board, the legislative seat of the Capitol, to come up with an ordinance to legitimize and reinforce all COVID-19 testing protocols here.
Also present at Monday’s press conference was Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson and chief pathologist for DOH – Central Visayas office (DOH-7), who also backed Garcia’s calls.
“We have to remember that because our systems and our processes are already in place, we can afford to do the testing upon arrival,” Loreche explained.
“And when they are negative, they are released to their LGUs (local government units) subject to compliance of the quarantine and of course, the testing protocols,” she added.
Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) No. 17 last March to repeal the mandatory quarantine requirement for Filipino travelers coming from abroad.
The new set of COVID-related guidelines directed health officials to collect swab samples from the returning OFWs upon their arrival here, and not on the sixth day.
Travelers with pending test results will have to stay in a designated hotel until they are confirmed to be COVID-free. Otherwise, they will be transported directly to isolation facilities for proper treatment.
Garcia earlier said the prolonged stay of returning Filipinos’ stay in quarantine hotels will only mean more financial burden to the latter.
Citing data from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Loreche also reported during Monday’s press conference that the province’s current testing protocols, on average, allowed travelers to spend only around P4,200.
The usual six-day rule of testing being implemented nationwide costs each returning Filipino traveler from abroad at least P11,200, she added.
“With all our protocols and processes in place, there is no way that we cannot learn to live with COVID-19. This is a clear example of how an open economy is with COVID-19 still around. At the end of the day, it is a shared responsibility of everyone,” Loreche said. / dcb
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