CEBU CITY — Five senators have backed the “swab-upon-arrival” policy of the Cebu provincial government for returning Filipinos from abroad.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III as well as Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Joel Villanueva expressed hopes that Cebu’s custom protocol will be implemented nationwide contrary to the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF).
Sotto described Cebu’s move as “innovative, safe, and reasonable” especially for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Returning Cebu residents no longer have to undergo quarantine for 10 days or more. Upon arrival, they have to be swabbed. After the negative results are out, they are sent home. After seven days, the second swab will be done by the LGU (local government unit),” Sotto said in a post on his Facebook page.
For his part, Angara, a lawyer, said Cebu’s policy “is practical and makes perfect sense.”
Zubiri expressed hopes that Cebu’s protocols will be replicated in other provinces as well.
“With tests coming out quicker these days—some tests can be processed in a day or so—there’s really little reason to still require a full two-week hotel quarantine for vaccinated OFWs,” he said.
“I think as we go along, it’s useful to review our policies and modify them if needed. The pandemic situation is changing, particularly with the ongoing vaccination here and abroad. Naturally our policies will have to change as well.”
Villanueva said the government will save millions if the Cebu policy is implemented nationwide.
“The shorter an OFW stays in a hotel, the smaller the amount that is billed to the government,” he said in a statement.
“If we adopt Cebu’s shortened quarantine period as national policy, the government will be saving almost P300 million a month,” he added.
Revilla echoed his colleagues’ sentiments, saying it will ease the burden on the OFWs.
In March 2021, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia decided to test all Filipinos from abroad upon arrival at the airport. While waiting for the results, OFWs and returning Filipinos need to go on hotel quarantine for a period of only two to three days.
The current national policy, on the other hand, mandates a 10-day quarantine and swabbing on the seventh day from arrival.
Garcia’s system prescribes a shorter quarantine period for returning Filipinos from abroad than that of the national government.
Her order was later adopted into a local law through Provincial Ordinance No. 2021-04.
Garcia met with President Rodrigo Duterte on May 31 to explain Cebu’s health protocols. During the meeting, the President gave Health Secretary Francisco Duque III until June 3 to study Garcia’s custom protocol.
As of June 10, Duque has yet to release the result of its study.
The IBP-Cebu Chapter said the province’s policy is “responsive” and in accordance with the law.
“The policy is consistent with the constitutional mandate to provide adequate social services and an improved quality of life for all as well as the protection and promotion of the right to health and of health consciousness of the people,” it said.
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