When presidential spokesperson Harry Roque attended the inauguration of Bantayan Island Airport together with Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia and other local officials, he explained that social distancing was not necessary as long as people wore face masks.
The opening of the airport drew large crowds at Kota Park in the town of Madridejos, where Roque gave remarks. He acknowledged that physical distancing was not being observed, but did not need to be as they were in an open air setting.
The Cebu provincial government recently launched “Suroy-suroy” (“strolling”), a tourism program meant to shore up the local economy amid the pandemic.
In a published report, Roque was quoted as saying: “[H]’wag niyo lang tatanggalin ang mga masks niyo. OK na ‘yan dahil open air naman tayo.”
“Cebuanos are showing that Covid19 is not a hindrance in reviving livelihood and tourism,” he added.
Social media users quickly criticized the disregard for quarantine rules. This was also not the first time the speaker drew flak for supposed violation of health protocols; last June, he was pictured posing with dolphins at a waterpark in Subic. In October, Roque enjoyed a weekend in Boracay shortly after the island reopened to tourists.
Madridejos mayor Salvador dela Fuente reported that the people’s “eagerness and enthusiasm” over seeing Roque and the governor caused the loss of control over physical distancing.
In a statement, Roque said that he himself observed social distancing and reminded everyone to follow the minimum health standards. He added that he did not shake hands with anybody.
Roque said that he did not expect the turnout to be so big. “The activity where I was seen speaking before a crowd was organized by the local government, which I had no control [over as] a guest.” He also said that Cebu officials did not anticipate the large crowds.
Photo: Daily Tribune