Backtrack on BaCTrac

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After so much hullabaloo coupled with the threat of sanction, the city government appears to be backtracking on its implementation of the Bacolod City Tracking System (BaCTrac) and now, instead of mandatory, it will be voluntary.

The BaCTrac app is supposed to take effect tomorrow. However, Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran said that due to the influx of registrants, it is impossible to meet the deadline, hence, it will be moved to November.

This is a classic example when one is so eager to pass a law without going through so much thought-process, in this case, authored by Councilor Lady Gles Pallen, and then find yourself biting your lips too late.

Admittedly, the concept is good as this is already being used in other parts of the country. In fact, ours is a mere copy of the tracking system implemented by South Cotabato. I find this quite ironic though that a province which has less than 600 COVID-19 cases as per DOH record, had the foresight to create an app that a highly-urbanized city like ours was not able to come up with.

There are questions on the use of this app, particularly its security features since we need to give personal information to register. Signing up was also problematic and the city had to apologize after the system bogged down in the first few days.

It took me four attempts before I was able to register but some friends had problems like correcting an information as the app does not recognize changes. Instead, a friend said she was asked to email her concerns to people who have South Cotabato email addresses.

Why? Don’t we have capable IT workers in our city government who can answer queries related to residents of Bacolod or Negros as well, since the law requires non-Bacolod residents doing business here to register, too.

Business leader Frank Carbon, in an interview yesterday, admitted that the business community is not ready for the implementation of this law and they have yet to receive a copy of the ordinance.

When asked for his thoughts on the BaCTrac, Carbon said he has more questions than answers as apparently, this was never even discussed with the business community. Yet, the city government demands establishments and government offices to comply with it under threat of sanctions.

Carbon also said that about 30-40 percent of their clientele are out-of-towners and if this is not made known to everyone outside of Bacolod, it will not only be a waste of time for these clients who drove for miles, but loss of income as well for businesses here that are already struggling.One businessman I asked told me they had to buy android phones for their guards to be used as scanners. But what about in our public markets?

Another friend also called this app “anti-people” referring to the marginalized who have no access to internet or smart phones. Although there will be a manual registration starting October 11 (or is this moved to?) I am pretty sure this will create long lines of people converging which is something that we are supposed to avoid.

I am not even sure if I can download my QR code in my phone as this will be easier to scan since mine came in an ID form. While again, the concept is good, before this BaCTrac, I was already happy bringing along pieces of paper with my name and contact numbers in it to give to the guards of establishments instead of writing in their logbooks.

But it’s not only the BaCTrac that the city is backtracking from but also mass testing for vendors which was moved because of the noise barrage staged last weekend.

It’s a good thing that El Cid talked to the vendors to clarify some issues that were unclear to them, thus their resistance to the mass testing. He said there were misinformation that those who will be swabbed will need to undergo the 14-day quarantine and if results come out positive, their family members will also be swabbed at their own expense.

I am quite ambivalent about the process of this mass testing because instead of the usual protocol of going on quarantine after swabbing till results are out, this time, vendors who are swabbed can go back to selling and will only stop when they test positive and brought to quarantine facilities. This will endanger buyers who are exposed to positive vendors between the time of swab to their results which we know could take more than a week to come out. How will they contact trace these buyers?

It is not helping the city government that their spokesperson for the vendor testing, Executive Assistant Ernie Pineda, is making more noise than issuing clarifications. Pineda alluded to political opponents again as the source of disinformation and allegedly some protestors last weekend were not vendors. Ugh! Enough of blame game. We have no time nor patience for that!

But someone must warn Gen. Mel Feliciano that his head is on the plate here as this was apparently his brainchild and if this vendor testing goes askew, it will be his fault and not the city government – ta dah!*

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