Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is reportedly standing firm against the observance of Covid19 health protocols prescribed by the Inter-Agency Anti-Covid Task Force (IATF), which have been described by provincial health officials as “lax.”
This surfaced after the Cebu provincial government was ordered by President Duterte to follow the guidelines set by the IATF for returning Filipino residents and overseas Filipino workers.
The directive reportedly came straight from the desk of Mr. Duterte, thru Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
The IATF is ordering all incoming Filipinos to undergo strict quarantine for 10 days, and then to be subjected to RT-PCR testing on the seventh day of return.
But Cebu’s system is a lot different. Here, provincial health officials require arriving Pinoys to get tested immediately upon touchdown; and if their RT-PCR test is negative, they are permitted to leave the airport and quarantine at home. After seven days, the Pinoy arrivals would again be swabbed during their home quarantine.
“The President has decided that the IATF protocols must be implemented by Cebu province,” Mr. Duterte was quoted as saying by the Palace.
But Gov. Garcia, who is known to be a staunch ally of Duterte and had helped him win massively in Cebu in the 2016 presidential elections, said local health protocols cannot be “unilaterally set aside” in favor of the IATF’s due to an existing provincial ordinance.
As of now, she maintained that the province’s “swab upon arrival” policy for returning Pinoys still stands, even though there is a contrary order from Malacanang.
Ms. Garcia told reporters that while she has a “deep respect” for the President, who is a lawyer, she likewise has a great respect for the rule of law.
She stressed that unless a provincial ordinance is declared ultra vires (beyond one’s legal authority) in a proper court of law, it cannot just be dismissed as it would be a violation of the Local Government Code or R.A. 7160.
A few weeks ago, Malacanang ordered all inbound flights for Mactan-Cebu International Airport diverted to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport supposedly over Cebu’s adamance in following national Covid protocols.
Sources in the Capitol said the existing anti-Covid measures of the IATF are perceived as “too lax” by many Cebuanos and thus insufficient in curbing the spread of the virus in the Queen City of the South.
The same sources said that Cebu’s “custom” Covid protocols are very much appreciated by most Cebuanos because they have been of great help in keeping the virus in check, thus allowing life in the province to return to normalcy in no small measure as compared to other places.