South Cotabato imposes strict control measures at border checkpoints

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (PNA) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has tightened its control measures in all the border entry and exit points of the province amid fears of possible coronavirus disease (COVID-19) local transmission.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. (PNA GenSan file photo)
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. (PNA GenSan file photo)

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said he ordered the stricter monitoring, effective Sunday, of all residents and travelers entering the area in the wake of the rising cases of locally-acquired COVID-19 infection in parts of Region 12 (Soccsksargen).

He issued the directive through Executive Order 46, which extended the implementation of the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) in the entire province until Aug. 31.

The move was endorsed by the area’s 11 city and municipal mayors in an emergency meeting at the provincial capitol last Saturday, he said.

The governor said Monday there was a need to strengthen the province’s fight against COVID-19, and establish effective border control measures due to the “impending threat of local transmission from the neighboring provinces and regions.”

He said all economic activities in the province will remain unhampered but the borders will be under “semi-lockdown.”

Under EO 46, Tamayo said all residents and travelers entering the border checkpoints should be registered with the province’s COVID-19 Contact-Tracing System (CCTS), a digital or electronic logbook mechanism aimed to speed up the tracking of possible disease transmission.

He cited the boundary checkpoints in Koronadal City and the municipalities of Norala, Sto. Nino, Polomolok and Tantangan.

“Persons who have no CCTS identification card or registered QR (quick response) code will not be allowed to enter the province,” he told reporters.

Tamayo said they have assigned health and police personnel at the border checkpoints to spearhead the inspections and facilitate the enrollment of unregistered individuals, especially the visitors.

He said temporary CCTS cards will be available at the border checkpoints, and printers will be later provided to speed up the registration process.

The governor said they opted for such measures instead of implementing another lockdown to balance the need to sustain the province’s economy amid the pandemic.

Through faster contact-tracing, he said local implementers and health workers will be able to properly monitor the movement of the virus and contain its spread.

“We really don’t know right now if there are asymptomatic persons in our midst, as seen with the alarming situation in our neighboring areas and that might eventually reach us,” Tamayo said.

The Department of Health-Region 12 confirmed new infections over the weekend in Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Cotabato City and other areas in Soccsksargen that were traced to locally-acquired cases.

Seven positive cases in Sultan Kudarat were linked to a patient from Isulan town who succumbed to the disease last Aug. 13 while four similar cases were reported in Cotabato City.

A worker from Polomolok town, South Cotabato who had no travel history outside the area tested positive on Saturday for COVID-19, the second with the same status recorded in the province in over a week.

As of Sunday night, the province’s confirmed coronavirus cases already reached a total of 82, with 55 recoveries.