BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III / GILBERT P. BAYORAN
All travelers to Bacolod City and Negros Occidental are still required to undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, or swab testing, to ensure that they are free from the coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr. Chris Sorongon, deputy for medical and data analysis of the Emergency Operations Center, issued the clarification following the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force of Resolution 101 that relaxes the requirements for travelers.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said testing should not be made mandatory for travelers, except when the local government unit of the area of destination will require it before arrival.
He added that no traveler should be required to undergo quarantine unless they exhibit Covid symptoms while travel authority and health certificates are also no longer necessary.
Only Authorized Persons Outside Residence from the national and other attached agencies are required to provide identification cards, travel authority, itinerary, and must pass the screening tests at the ports.
Sorongon said they want to encourage locally stranded individuals, returning overseas Filipino workers, tourists, and APORs to submit to RT-PCR testing on a voluntary basis.
“Testing is needed because we cannot monitor asymptomatic individuals by simple assessment of a physician,” he added.
Sorongon also said that they want to control the entrance of asymptomatic people within the city’s borders in order to abort local virus transmission, adding that only after the vaccines are available that they will decide on doing away with the testing.
EOC records show that most of the active cases in the city’s isolation facilities are travelers.
IN NEG. OCC., TOO
Negros Occidental Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz also said that despite the uniform travel protocols, the province will continue to require LSIs to undergo swab testing and be placed under quarantine, pending the test result.
“The danger posed by Covid-19 is still there, so we feel it is still the prudent thing to do,” Diaz said, adding that they will request the national IATF to approve the decision of the provincial government.
He, however, said the province will no longer require travel authorities, or health certificates from travelers.
The Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry, meanwhile, expressed its support to the new uniform travel protocols set by the IATF.
MBCCI executive officer Frank Carbon said the new protocols should have long been implemented in order that local businesses could start recovering following months of restrictions brought by the pandemic.
AUTHORITY FOR LGUs
Carbon said it would be best if LGUs would be given authorization to make their own regulations in order to further hasten the process.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government confirmed yesterday that travel authority from the Philippine National Police and medical certificate from the LGU health office are no longer required, after the IATF approved the harmonized national travel protocols for land, air, and sea recommended by the DILG.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said the streamlined travel protocols were crafted by the DILG, in coordination with the PNP, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, and the League of Cities of the Philippines.
He advised all travelers to check with their LGU of destination before traveling to ensure a smooth trip.
He said all LGUs, regardless if they require PCR tests or not, shall conduct clinical and exposure assessments at all points of entry and exit to ensure that only asymptomatic and non-close contact individuals are allowed to travel or move from one LGU to another.
Malaya said that with the travel regulations harmonized, minimum public health standards that include physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and wearing of face masks and face shields, among others, shall be strictly implemented by the PNP and local authorities.
Ports and terminals must have assigned sufficient quarantine facilities. A referral system must be in place where travelers who become symptomatic shall be transferred to quarantine or isolation facilities to enable the Bureau of Quarantine for airports, or local health officials in case of LGUs, to take over. LGUs, at their option, may provide transportation for all travelers who are transiting from one LGU to another in cases of arrivals at air and seaports to their end-point destinations, he added.*