Sotto, IBP-Cebu back ‘swab-upon-arrival’ policy

Published June 9, 2021, 3:25 PM

by Calvin Cordova 

CEBU CITY – The “swab-upon-arrival” policy that Cebu used to enforce for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) arriving at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) continues to gain support.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Cebu chapter were the latest to encourage the national government to adopt the province’s quarantine protocols for OFWs and ROFs that were laid out in Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia’s Executive Order (EO) No. 17 and Provincial Ordinance 2021-04.

“I strongly support EO No. 17, Series of 2021, of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia and Provincial Ordinance No. 2021-04 of the Cebu Provincial Board implementing the swab-upon-arrival policy in Cebu,” Sotto said in a statement.

Unlike the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines, Sotto and the IBP-Cebu chapter both said that the province’s policy will ease the financial burden that OFWs and ROFs will have to face when going home.

“The IATF guidelines give additional burden to our OFWs and ROFs by requiring them to spend their time and hard-earned money to stay in hotels and accredited quarantine facilities for a minimum of 10 days from arrival and swab test done only seven days from arrival,” said Sotto.

Under the governor’s EO, OFWs and ROFs will be swabbed upon arrival and will be allowed to go home right away if the test yields negative result and continue their quarantine in their homes.

The home isolation will include another round of swab on the seventh day.

“This is an innovative, safe, and reasonable protocol especially for our OFWs. I’m looking forward that this best practice will be implemented throughout the country,” Sotto added.

Following the inconsistencies in the IATF and the province’s guidelines on arriving OFWs and ROFs, Malacañang has ordered the diversion of the Cebu-bound international flights to Manila.

The IBP-Cebu chapter said the province’s policy “is responsive to the general plight of returning OFWs and ROFs in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The IBP-Cebu chapter likewise cited Section 6 of the Local Government Code stating that in times of health emergencies, the national government may only assume direct supervision in any local government unit (LGU) for not more than six months and may only be extended with the concurrence of the LGU concerned.

Aside from Sotto and the IBP-Cebu chapter, eight congressmen from Cebu also signed a manifesto seeking the adoption of the governor’s EO.

The manifesto also asked the national government to allow the province to handle its COVID-19 response instead of the IATF.