Duque told: Assess if Cebu’s COVID-19 response can be applied nationwide
CEBU CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has asked for Health Sec. Francisco Duque III to study how Cebu managed the COVID-19 situation, and see if the island province’s response versus the pandemic can be applied nationwide, says Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.
“In the end, the President advised Sec. Duque to study our procedures here, and see if its possibly a good way or innovation to be adopted,” Garcia told reporters in a press conference on Tuesday, June 1.
“They were given until Thursday (June 3). I heard the President told him twice,” added Garcia.
Monday’s meeting stemmed from the recent decision of the Malacañang to divert all international flights bound for Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in what seemed to be a rebuke on Garcia’s Executive Order (EO) No. 17.
Other key Visayas figures who joined the meeting were Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Sec. Michael Lloyd Dino, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche (chief pathologist of the Department of Health in Central Visayas), Retired Gen. Mel Feliciano (Deputy Chief Implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease in the Visayas), and Edmun Liu of the private sector’s Project Balik Buhay (PBB).
EO No. 17
EO No. 17, issued last March, swayed away from the whole-of-nation swabbing policies mandated by the IATF that require Filipino travelers from abroad to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, and a swab test on the seventh day of their isolation.
But the governor’s EO, which is backed by a recently approved Provincial Ordinance, ordered health authorities at the airport to immediately swab arriving passengers, and stay for a maximum of three days in designated hotels pending their results.
For Cebu residents, they will be allowed to proceed to their destinations once they test negative of COVID-19. They, too, will undergo another round of swab tests after arriving in their hometowns.
Hotel stay for non-Cebu residents, however, may be prolonged if the local government of their destination will require them to do so.
“If you see something working, wouldn’t it be worth it to study it and find out why is it working and perhaps apply this to other regions?” Garcia pointed out.
On the other hand, the governor said Monday’s meeting was a ‘success’.
“May I cautiously state in being able to present to the President our position why we have done it, and how everyone was on board in coming up with this policy. In fact, well-represented… I think, in the sense, that the President was able to be given a different point of view,” explained Garcia.
The governor also said the President expressed understanding towards the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) while acknowledging the existence of prevailing health protocols.
“It seems in Cebu, you are not following the IATF guidelines,” Garcia said, quoting the President.
“The President in the same breath also said ‘I do recognize the help of the local government units in the implementation of the policy since it is the local chief executives who are on the ground’,” Garcia said.
She also mentioned instances when local officials such as Loreche and Dino defended Cebu and responded to the concerns raised by those from the national government.
In particular, how Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año apparently pointed out that Central Visayas and Cebu may have contributed to the rising infections in other regions, and tagged them as sources.
According to Garcia, Loreche presented ‘completed figures to show Cebu was able to manage spikes of COVID-19 cases in the past months’ while Dino rebutted Año’s remarks.
“Loreche showed complete figures that showed Cebu was able to manage,” said Garcia.
“I’m sorry I find that statement very unfair. How can you prove that?” Garcia added, quoting Dino.
Also present during the meeting were other Cabinet members including Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, and Sen. Bong Go.
Garcia commended Go and Roque for speaking up for Cebu.
“It’s time to ask why Cebu is in MGCQ for 10 months now. NCR was not able to do it. Maybe it’s time to study what Cebu is doing,” Roque reportedly said. /rcg
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