Due to one unthinking 26-year old female official of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) – who lied about her true Covid19 status – the re-opening for business of Boracay Island, which is known worldwide for its beautiful beaches was placed in jeopardy as it may again have to be subjected to certain strictures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Boracay, incidentally, is one of the few places in the country that has until now remained Covid-free, which is a source of pride for its people who have been enduring so much to preserve that status.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the still-unnamed suspect had come to Boracay last week together with 27 others from the BFP Region 6 office for an illegal “despedida party” for a colleague, in blatant violation of existing quarantine rules being enforced by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
To avoid suspicion, the BFG group told Malay town officials they had come for a conference which dovetailed an earlier inspection trip by IATF officials led by Interior Secretary Ed Ano, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Puyat.
In a TV interview, Puyat said the BFP official, more damningly, did not disclose her exact condition in contact tracing documents upon stepping foot on the island last June 11 that caused a lot of inconvenience and put the lives of people at risk.
Sec. Ano said the female fire officer, who is classified as asymptomatic, had originated from Cebu City, which is an ECQ area, and was actually under quarantine in Iloilo City while awaiting the results of her swab test.
But she suddenly left the hotel where she was quarantining without informing the proper authorities, as she wanted to join her BFP colleagues for the despedida party in Boracay.
Unfortunately, during the festivities, she got word from Iloilo that she was Covid-positive per the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) she had earlier undergone.
Ano said BFP Western Visayas Roderick Aguto (who reportedly attended the despedida) and 28 BFP personnel were sacked from their respective posts for the quarantine breach and the unauthorized trip to Boracay.
Puyat, for her part, ordered the revocation of the DoT accreditation of the hotel where the 28-man BPF group was billeted from June 12-14, thus preventing it from operating in the forseeable future.
Malay officials had to scramble double-time to locate, isolate and monitor all those who could possibly have had close contact with the infected BFP employee.
“This can be considered economic sabotage,” according to Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista.
He said this serious breach of protocol by no less than a supposedly responsible member of the IATF team may have a huge impact on the success of government-backed initiatives to resuscitate the local Boracay economy which is a big source of tourism income, which for now is confined to locals from neighboring Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.
“We condemn the breach of protocol and those responsible must be held accountable,” Boracay business operators said. They said this irresponsible act has squandered the gains made by the local community under three months of lockdown, and more importantly affected their efforts to resuscitate the local economy.