Cebu will stick with Swab-Upon-Arrival policy
Officials say policy not in violation of IATF guidelines
CEBU CITY, Philippines—It’s still a status quo on swab policies for arriving Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROF) and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) here in Cebu.
A day after Malacañang announced that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the province to follow task force protocols against COVID-19, key officials here agreed on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, to stick with its Swab-Upon-Arrival policy.
Stakeholders in Cebu province held a meeting with Governor Gwendolyn Garcia on Tuesday following recent pronouncements from the Palace.
Those in attendance were heads and representatives from the Central Visayas offices of the Department of Health (DOH-7), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ-7), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-7), and airport executives from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) and GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC).
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of DOH-7, told reporters after the meeting that they will still implement the province’s Swab-Upon-Arrival policy.
Loreche pointed out that local officials here will have to follow Provincial Ordinance No. 2021-04, mandating ROFs and OFWs to be swabbed upon arrival at the airport, and on the 7th day for Cebu residents.
“I believe everybody knows already that the protocol will stand because of the ordinance, and DOH-7, together with other government agencies and concerned stakeholders, has to follow the ordinance of the local government,” said Loreche.
But the DOH-7 official and chief pathologist reiterated that authorities here in Cebu are not defying the guidelines from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF).
“If you really look at it, hindi naman talaga tayo nag violate. It has always been in compliance with the IATF guidelines on testing protocols and quarantine,” Loreche explained.
“It’s just that we have to do some innovative changes, primarily because testing upon arrival is an enhancement of the security measures. Making sure [that those who were] positive upon arrival, we’ll be able to extract them already, and we will not be allowing them to go around,” she added.
Malacañang announced on Monday, June 14, that President Duterte has ordered Cebu province to abide by the protocols of IATF.
IATF instructed health authorities nationwide to quarantine arriving ROFs and OFWs for 14 days, and collect swab samples for COVID testing on the 7th day.
But in Cebu, they will undergo ‘double swabbing’.
The first round of swab tests is upon arrival at MCIA. The second one will be conducted on the 7th day.
Arriving ROFs and OFWs here will only stay in isolation hotel rooms for a maximum of three days if they test negative of the infection.
For transiting passengers, however, it may be prolonged if the local government of their destinations says so.
It can be recalled that the Palace ordered to divert flights bound for MCIA twice – from May 29 to June 5, and June 6 to June 12 – in what seemed to be rebuke on Cebu’s Swab-Upon-Arrival policy.
When asked if they, too, discussed measures to counter possible actions from the national government in the future, Loreche said,
“We will leave it up to our leaders.”
On Tuesday, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, during a Senate Hearing, invited experts and members of the IATF to present their data before the Provincial Board if it meant convincing the legislative body here why Cebu should comply with their protocols.
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