When I first read this breaking story about domestic travel restrictions being lifted in the Philippines, I was as excited as a turd in a toilet bowl. Was the Philippines finally on track to loosen some quarantine lockdown measures?
While I applaud the Inter-Agency Task Force, IATF, for attempting to issue uniform travel protocols across the Philippines, two major stumbling blocks remain, Local Government Units, LGUs, and the “doom-and-gloom” prophets of the Philippines, the OCTA “Research” Group.
Here’s the rub:
While the IATF has eliminated the COVID-19 test, mandatory quarantine (unless travelers exhibit symptoms upon arriving at their destination), health certificates, and travel passes from the police, local government units can still require COVID-19 tests.
Significant provisions are:
1) Testing shall not be mandatory unless the LGU requires it, but shall be limited only to RT-PCR.
2) No more mandatory quarantine.
3) No more travel authority requirement.
4) APORs shall be required to present an ID, travel order and travel itinerary. “Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APORs) from national government agencies and their attached agencies must provide their identification card, travel order, and travel itinerary, and must pass symptom-screening at ports of entry and exit,” the IATF explained. Previously APORs did not even have to submit to a prior COVID-19 test.
5) All must pass health/symptom assessment check at point of origin before travel and point of entry upon arrival.
6) Ports, terminals must have sufficient isolation facilities for travelers who show symptoms.
Items 1 to 5 are similar to what are stated in Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia’s Executive Order No. 9 and Executive Order No. 12 issued earlier this month.
Will LGUs Change?
With this LGU exemption, however, I wonder if anything will change. Aside from forward thinking Cebu Provincial Governor, Gwen Garcia, many LGUs were still insisting on COVID-19 testing before entering their region.
Many mayors and other local government officials seem hell-bent on holding on to the excessive powers they have been granted under the so-called pandemic.
Along with fear mongering from OCTA, who already oppose the lifting of travel restrictions, I don’t see many LGUs changing their policy despite the Task Force ruling.
Curiously, the announcement wasn’t formally made until Saturday, when most government offices are not open. Will there be a major uproar on Monday among local government officials?
Or perhaps they will finally follow the recommendations of the national COVID-19 Task Force?
Moreover, what about one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines, Boracay? If the government were serious about opening domestic tourism, Boracay would be the logical place to start. Dropping the COVID-19 testing requirement would be a huge boost to tourism.
We’ll have to wait and see.
With reporting from the Cebu Provincial Govt. Facebook page