“We cannot overemphasize the reality that our Covid-19 situation is worsening and we need the help of the national government to ease our burdens and ensure a greater measure of protection for our people.”
Thus wrote Mayor Evelio Leonardia to the two chairpersons of both the Western Visayas Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (WVRIATF) and Western Visayas Regional Task Force (WVRTF) in appealing that the regional agencies make a “favorable endorsement” of Bacolod’s urgent appeals to the National IATF, one of which is to allow it to continue implementing its own local health protocols on returning residents.
“We appeal that our local health protocols on returning residents be respected,” wrote Leonardia in his September 4, 2020 letter addressed to DILG-6 OIC-regional director Juan Jovian Ingeniero, who chairs the WVRIATF-6; and Office of Civil Defense (OCD)-6 regional director Jose Roberto Nuñez, who chairs the WVRTF-6.
Leonardia was reacting to a directive of the NTF Order dated August 19, 2020 mandating that arriving ROFs (returning overseas Filipinos) be brought directly to their homes upon their arrival at the airport or seaport, and shall no longer be subject to local health protocols by the receiving LGU, presumably because these ROFs have already tested negative for coronavirus at their last stop before embarking on the final leg of their trip home.
But the mayor said the NIATF, for its part, also issued Resolution No. 67 dated August 31, 2020, which requires the “immediate facility-based quarantine or isolation of all returning citizens, suspect, and probable cases.”
The mayor said between the two national directives, the Bacolod LGU will have to comply with NIATF Resolution No. 67 dated August 31, as this is “congruent with our present health protocols and will provide greater protection for our people.”
“This is to most respectfully inform you of the stand of our (Bacolod) LGU that ROFs and LSIs (locally stranded individuals) coming home to Bacolod need to be facility-quarantined and swabbed first (under RT-PCR method) when they arrive here, before they are allowed to finally proceed home,” the mayor said.
Leonardia added that these ROFs and LSIs can only be discharged from quarantine under either condition: (1) as soon as their negative test results are released, even before the 14-day quarantine period expires, as long as they remain asymptomatic; or (2) they remain asymptomatic during the 14-day quarantine period even if their results have not arrived within this time.
The mayor also cited previous experiences of the Bacolod LGU that they had accepted ROFs and LSIs who already tested negative several days before their trips home, only to find out later that many of them still tested positive for the virus when they were re-swabbed upon arrival in the city.
“Re-swabbing upon their arrival here will, thus, be more prudent and safer for the families of these Returning Residents and the general community,” he added.
However, Leonardia said, that this is not to say that the Bacolod LGU can presently accommodate any number of returning residents as its quarantine facilities are also limited.
Also, the seven hospitals in Bacolod cannot take in more than 165 “moderate” to “severe” Covid cases at any one time.
Thus, the second appeal of the Bacolod City mayor before the NIATF was to give the LGUs advance 2-day notice before any boat or plane trip is scheduled for returning residents to assess if the city has room for them in its quarantine facilities at that point in time.
Leonardia’s third appeal was for the grant of an additional moratorium until September 30 for more trips home of Returning Residents./WDJ