BY CARLA P. GOMEZ
Travel between Negros and Panay will no longer be allowed starting today following the closure of borders by local officials.
However, Dr. Julius Drilon, chairman of the Department of Health COVID-19 Regional Team for Bacolod and Negros, said the closure decisions were based on a non-factual advisory issued by Riverside Medical Center Inc. declaring full capacity of its COVID area, which is not true.
Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas said yesterday that due to rising cases of COVID-19, Iloilo City will close its borders to people coming in from Bacolod City and the provinces of Negros Occidental and Oriental effective today until further notice.
Movement of essential goods and cargoes will remain unhampered, he said.
Treñas told the DAILY STAR the Iloilo COVID-19 Task Force, composed of doctors from the private sector, recommended the closure of the borders on information that a Bacolod hospital’s COVID-19 area had reached full capacity.
The RMCI, in an advisory Monday, announced that its isolation facility, which is specially designated for the admission and treatment of COVID-19 patients, had reached its full capacity.
Treñas said the doctors in Iloilo were alarmed, prompting the closure of the borders.
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. yesterday also announced that Iloilo province will close its borders to passengers coming from Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, and Negros Oriental starting today due to the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in these areas.
He also ordered the closure of the ports of Dumangas and Estancia effective today.
However, transport for trade and other necessities will not be hindered, he added.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, in response, said “Given the existing circumstances in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental, and also that in Iloilo City and the province of Iloilo, we are closing our borders to passengers coming from Iloilo City, the province of Iloilo and the whole of Panay, including Guimaras, effective tonight (Tuesday).”
“As long as Iloilo takes that stand we will reciprocate,” he said.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, when asked for his reaction on the closure of borders, said, “For as long as cargos are left unhampered, we can deal with this.”
Drilon, in a statement issued on his Facebook page yesterday, said “I am deeply disturbed by the pronouncements of our city officials on closing of borders between Iloilo and Bacolod. Decisions were made based on a non factual advisory of one healthcare facility declaring full capacity of its Covid area.”
After clarifications are made, Drilon said he is hoping that both parties will agree to retract the orders.
“I appeal to my friends, Mayor Bing and Mayor Jerry, to issue official statements at the soonest possible time. It has caused tremendous discomfort among our fellow Ilonggos. Likewise I am appealing to my fellow hospital administrator to correct the advisory that was posted,” he said.
Drilon told the DAILY STAR that he was informed by a top RMCI official that the hospital, in fact, only has two confirmed COVID-19 patients and six of its staff admitted in its isolation facility.
He said the official told him that “they were forced to make that announcement because they already lack PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) and nurses, and on orders of their president.”
Treñas told him that he closed Iloilo City’s borders based on the advice of doctors because, if 30 percent of the 300-bed RMCI is fully occupied by COVID patients, that is alarming, Drilon said.
The DOH requires hospitals to allocate 30 percent of their bed capacity to COVID patients, Drilon explained. He said 30 percent of RMCI’s authorized bed capacity would mean about 90 patients.
Drilon said he told Treñas that the bulk of Bacolod’s COVID-19 cases are in quarantine facilities, they are not in the hospitals.
He said the irresponsible advisory of RMCI has reached Malacañang and that could cause a lockdown.
Drilon said he hopes RMCI rectifies its advisory or it could be liable under Republic Act 11332 also known as the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act”.
Intentionally providing misinformation is punishable under the act, he said.
The entire Western Visayas has been affected by RMCI’s advisory, Drilon said.
Bacolod Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran said the advisory of RMCI has caused confusion, it should clarify that its employees are the ones quarantined there.
“Our positive patients are asymptomatic and are in quarantine centers,” he said.
RMCI should correct its advisory because it has caused panic and fear among the public, Familiaran added.
RMCI medical director, Dr. Antonia Gensoli, when reached for RMCI’s side, said the hospital would issue a clarification on its last advisory.*