Cebu Provincial Board to IATF: ‘Consider budget for ROFs’

THE Cebu Provincial Board approved on Monday, July 5, 2021, the resolution reminding the national body that deals with the Covid-19 pandemic in the country about President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise that the National Government would shoulder the quarantine expenses of the returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

Provincial Board (PB) Member John Ismael Borgonia authored the resolution, which requests “the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to consider the timely allocation of budget for the payment of hotel quarantine facility and other necessary expenses” for the ROFs.

Borgonia endorsed the resolution before the PB to remind the IATF of the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte last June 21, assuring that the National Government would pay the bills of the ROFs under quarantine in hotels.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration shoulders the hotel quarantine expenses of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Borgonia’s resolution states that the IATF’s “10-day hotel-based quarantine policy causes distress and undue financial burden on the (ROFs), since they have to pay for their 10-day hotel quarantine fees,” and the money of ROFs “could have been used for other necessary purposes.”

Borgonia said the ROFs are still paying for their quarantine stay in hotels. The Cebu provincial office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, he learned, had not received a directive from its central office on what to do with the ROFs’ expenses.

The testing and quarantine policies of the Cebu Provincial Government differ from that of the IATF.

Provincial Ordinance 2021-04 mandates the swab tests of the OFWs and ROFs who arrive at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City. The PB passed the ordinance to strengthen the Executive Order 17, which was issued by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia; the local legislative body amended the ordinance on June 11 to include a second swab test.

The OFWs and ROFs stay in hotel quarantine; they are released if the result is negative, after a maximum of three days.

The IATF protocols require the OFWs and ROFs to undergo a 10-day facility-based quarantine; the swab test is done on the seventh day. They are not released right away if the result is negative—they have to continue with their hotel quarantine until they finish the 10-day requirement, then they have to spend the remaining four days in quarantine in their local government units.

Last June 29, the IATF officials led by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III attended the PB special session held at the Capitol Building in Cebu City. During the session, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia urged the IATF to allow the Provincial Government to manage its own constituents by implementing the ordinance, which sets the policy to conduct reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test or swab test for Cebuano ROFs.

The IATF stood pat on implementing its own protocols as it wants uniformity of border control guidelines in all of the country’s ports of entry, the airports and seaports. It also did not want the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus to spread across the country. (ANV)