Cebu's lax border control policy 'very, very dangerous' — Galvez

Published June 22, 2021, 11:12 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. has warned that Cebu’s refusal to follow the national government’s protocols on international arrivals to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is “very, very dangerous.”

Hundreds of residents from Cebu City who are under A1, A2, A3 priority lists which refer to medical frontliners, senior citizens, and people with comorbidities line up to receive Pfizer vaccines at the University of Cebu on May 19, 2021 (JUAN CARLO DE VELA / MANILA BULLETIN)

Galvez, chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, said medical experts and international consultants have agreed that there should be no compromise in the implementation of strong border controls especially with the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus.

“Ang ginagawa po ng Cebu ay very, very dangerous as compared sa stringent policy na ginagawa po abroad (What Cebu is doing is very, very dangerous as compared to the stringent policy being implemented abroad),” Galvez said at President Duterte’s pre-recorded public briefing aired on Monday night, June 21.

“I believe even in Israel, which has fully vaccinated its population, they implement a 14-day quarantine in their travel borders. Majority of the countries follow that rule that [quarantine] should not be less than 14 days to 21 days,” he explained.

President Duterte has instructed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to compel Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to follow the national government’s border control policy.

Cebu is requiring returning Filipinos to undergo a swab test upon arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Those who would test negative are allowed to proceed to their area of destination without being subjected to quarantine.

This is different from the rules imposed by the national government since returning Filipinos are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

They shall be committed to a government quarantine facility in the first 10 days and undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on the seventh day of their quarantine to determine their health status.

Should they test negative, the returning Filipinos will then be allowed to undergo home quarantine in the last four days of their mandatory quarantine.

Last month, Duterte ordered the diversion of all flights from Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City due to the lack of quarantine facilities in the province.

Garcia had said that she would “study our position” after all the Cebu-bound flights were rerourted to Manila amid the contrasting border control policy between the local government unit (LGU) of Cebu and the national government.

However, Duterte emphasized that the national government’s protocols on COVID-19 should prevail over the local government’s policies, even though LGUs have an autonomy in enforcing local laws, since the pandemic is a matter of national concern and the country is in a state of public health emergency.