By Joseph B.A. Marzan
A year into the country’s first lockdowns due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), local chief executives on Monday decided to require testing for all residents returning to Western Visayas.
Provincial governors and mayors of the region’s highly urbanized cities met online on Monday to discuss travel protocols in light of recorded COVID-19 surges in Metro Manila.
Shortly after the meeting, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas announced via the Iloilo City Government’s official Facebook page that they have agreed to require all travelers to the region to undergo Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing within 72 hours before their scheduled trip.
The city government then clarified to the media that this was not a final edict and that they have requested the Department of Interior and Local Government-Region 6 (DILG-6) to coordinate with the national Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) for clearance to implement the proposal.
The DILG-6 is the chair of the regional IATF-MEID.
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. told Aksyon Radyo Iloilo that he may have to further amend Executive Order (EO) No. 183 if the IATF-MEID approves the testing requirement.
The latest amendment to the current community quarantine order, EO No. 183-L issued on Mar. 13, loosened restrictions and removed the RT-PCR requirement for returning residents.
This EO, which the governor first introduced on March 12, 2021, implemented the IATF-MEID’s Resolution No. 101 issued on February 26 which set uniform rules for travelers.
At the time, COVID-19 surges in the National Capital Region have yet to occur.
The new rules were set to be implemented today, but these were suspended indefinitely to monitor the situation in Manila and to give time for residents to adjust.
“One of the reasons for that, is that in the past 48 hours since we implemented our [E.O.], the situation in Manila changed, and that called for adjustment. The local chief executives in Region 6 anticipated the possible moratorium of entry of people here in the province, especially from Manila. We will see within the next three days what will happen in the levels of Metro Manila,” Defensor said in a radio interview.
Iloilo province houses two major gateways to Panay Island – the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, which regularly served flights to major gateways in the country and in Asia, and the Port of Dumangas, which caters to voyages to Bacolod City and is a landing for goods sold in the central and eastern parts of the province.
The local chief executives will meet again on Friday to discuss the progression of cases in Metro Manila and to finalize the region’s travel protocol.
The Philippines on Monday reported another record high of 5,404 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total tally to 626,893.
This is the highest reported daily number of cases in seven months even as five laboratories failed to submit data on time.
Active cases stood at 53,479 or 8.5% of the cumulative total cases.
The number of additional daily cases in recent weeks has been higher than those reported in January and February, mainly due to the spread of the disease in the National Capital Region and in Region 7. (With reports from GMA News Online and ABS-CBN News)