CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia was within her authority when she ordered the lifting of the swab test requirement for travelers entering Cebu province.
Thus said Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III a day after he was quoted in a media report as saying the Governor may face sanctions for dropping the swab requirement for tourists arriving in Cebu.
“Clearly, in the Omnibus guidelines in the implementation of community quarantine in the Philippines as signed by the President, it is clear there that protocols for non-Apors (non-Authorized Persons Outside of Residence) whether intra-travel or interzonal travel will be subjected to reasonable regulations of the local government. So, in other words, some local governments may require testing, some may not, but these are in alignment or in accordance with the Omnibus Guidelines,” he said during a virtual conference with Cebu media on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
He clarified that his earlier statement saying the DILG would “force” Garcia to follow protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) was only in response to a speculative question.
“My initial response was only a joke. I said then let’s force the Governor, but eventually, by succeeding statements, I said we will talk to the Governor and reason with her,” Densing said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
“In my experience with the Governor, in the past, though, she had mentioned executive order which is disaligned with the IATF resolutions, eventually, she would follow and adjust her executive order,” Densing added.
Densing said the DILG will propose to the IATF in a meeting on Friday, Feb. 26, that common protocols on air, land and sea travel be set among local government units (LGUs).
The DILG also wants “irrelevant” documentary requirements for travel, such as the medical certificates and the travel authority issued by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be waived, said Densing.
In lieu of these requirements, Densing said, the DILG will push for the implementation of strict clinical assessments or symptoms’ screening in ports of origin and arrival.
The DILG will also take up with the IATF the case of travelers coming from a place with a higher community quarantine classification and going to one with a lower community quarantine classification.
In such case, Covid testing may be required at the option of the LGUs, said Densing.
Earlier, Garcia issued Executive Orders (EOs) 9 and 12 easing restrictions for Apor and non-Apor travelling to Cebu Province, in her bid to revive the Province’s tourism industry and economy.
Under EO 9, Apors only need to present a valid certification card from their government agencies; present an original or certified true copy of a travel authority or order issued by the Department Secretary or his designated official, and pass the symptoms screening or checking in air or sea ports upon arrival or boarding public transportation.
While non-Apors can enter Cebu Province if they can present a medical certificate issued by a competent physician and also pass symptoms checking at the point of departure and at the point of arrival.
Meanwhile, EO 12 no longer requires a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test to visit tourist destinations in Cebu Province.
The order opens the Province to domestic tourists regardless of their point of origin as long as they can present a valid medical certificate issued seven days prior to their departure.
Local tourists also need to show proof of pre-booking at a resort or hotel where the tourist shall stay for the duration of his visit, pass the Covid-19 symptoms checking at the points of departure and arrival, and observe minimum health protocols while in the province.
In public speeches in San Remigio town in northern Cebu on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, and in Medellin town on Thursday, Feb. 25, Garcia said she believes these measures do not violate the Omnibus guidelines issued by the IATF.
“To make this very clear, I have always abided by the Omnibus guidelines, which, if only everyone will take trouble to research, are constantly evolving,” she said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Garcia continued to carve the path to the tourism reopening of Cebu Province to spur economic activity and generate employment.
“You may bash me, you may criticize me, but I will stand up for Cebu and the Cebuanos. And so we declare, enough of this fear of the pandemic. Enough of this economic misery. Stand up, Cebu. We will move on and we will move forward,” she said during a tourism stakeholders’ meeting in the town of San Remigio.
Garcia said it is important to implement a careful and strategic re-opening of the economy.
Cebu is the first province to not require an RT-PCR test for arriving local tourists.
“It’s a big thing. There were many different commentaries but I stand by it. How did I arrive at this decision and other decisions? After careful study, after deep analysis and using my common sense,” she said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The governor spearheaded the groundbreaking ceremony of the two-storey Cebu Technological University extension campus in Barangay Tambogon, San Remigio on Wednesday, Feb. 24.
She also visited the famous man-made Bamboo Forest in Barangay Luy-a, Medellin owned by businessman Jose Mari Miranda.
The tourist attraction was patterned after the Arishayama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan.
Visitors can also use the place for picnics and wear yukatas, summer kimono of the Japanese that can be rented in the place.
Entrance fee is at P20 while children aged 10 and down can get in for free. (JOB, ANV)