Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson yesterday informed four national government agencies that he has set protocols that will govern the entry of all persons into Negros Occidental, via its airports or seaports, starting June 1.
“We hope the national government agencies will support the efforts of the province of Negros Occidental to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and make the province safe for all Negrenses,” Lacson said in his letters to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, and Philippine Coast Guard officials yesterday.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia yesterday also sought clarification from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on the re-opening of commercial sea and air travel in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental after May 31, when the current General Community Quarantine on both LGUs ends and will be subject to review by the National Inter-Agency Task Force.
Lacson, in his letters to the four government agencies, said the following protocols will govern the entry of all persons into Negros Occidental via airports and seaports:
*The number of incoming passengers will be based on the available quarantine rooms determined by the Provincial Health Office;
*All incoming passengers will agree to stay at designated quarantine facilities until they are released based on their Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test results;
*With the fully operational Molecular Laboratory at the TeresitaLocsinJalandoni Provincial Hospital (TLJPH), holding time of passengers will be from one day to two days;
*Tickets for airlines and sea vessels/roll-on roll-off (RORO)/ fastcraft will be sold only to persons listed on the Certificate of Acceptance issued by the Negros Occidental provincial government.
*Priority will be given to returning Negrense residents, and workforce of essential businesses allowed to operate during the General Community Quarantine during the first phase of the new normal. Certificates of Acceptance will be single use, date specific, and will be granted once per month, except for emergency reasons.
*Considering the need for a data tracking system and health monitoring of incoming passengers, the Provincial Health Office and the Negros Occidental Tourism Division will require incoming passengers to fill up a Tourist Information and Health Declaration Card before leaving the airport/seaport terminal.
Meanwhile, Leonardia, in his letter to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade yesterday, requested for a video conference with him, together with Lacson, to get guidance from the DOTr.
During this GCQ period, commercial sea and air travel from and into the city and the province remain suspended, except for occasional boat trips and plane flights for cargo shipments and repatriation of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and stranded residents, Leonardia told Tugade.
These trips arearranged on a case-to-case basis, depending on the availability of space in the quarantine facilities of the city and the province, he said.
“Our concern is: what happens after May 31? Will commercial inter-island sea travel between Negros Occidental/Bacolod and other places resume? Will the Bacolod-Silay Airport now be opened for commercial flights from Manila, Clark, Cebu, and Mindanao regardless of the risk status and quarantine categories of these other places?” Leonardia asked.
CITY AND PROVINCE AFFECTED
The mayor stressed that Tugade’s decisions on these concerns will directly impact on Bacolod and Negros Occidental in terms of their containment efforts against COVID-19.
Leonardia said Bacolod and Negros Occidental have been implementing strict health protocols for people arriving by sea or air, and that these have worked well in detecting positive cases among the arrivals and isolating them until they become negative of the virus.
“However, we fear that these protocols will be imperiled by the sudden influx of arrivals into our city and province from the resumption of commercial sea and air travel, if done without regard to our capacity to accommodate them in our LGU-managed quarantine centers upon their arrival,” the mayor added.
“May we beg that commercial sea and air travel not be resumed in our areas, as yet, after May 31, 2020, regardless of the quarantine category by then of the city and or the province,” Leonardia sad.
This is because Bacolod had experienced receiving arriving OFWs, some of whom later tested positive for the virus, he added.
In case that is not granted, Leonardia offered a compromise – that inbound trips by air and sea “continue to be pre-arranged” with the city and the province.*
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