December 8, 2023

As the current administration prepares to report on the fourth state of the nation this month, we hope Filipinos are told of the real picture of what the country has become, considering the recent inauspicious events that overwhelmed the entire nation, particularly on the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Looking at the pandemic by the number in the country, which hit more than 50,000 cases the past week and ranking second with the most number of positive cases in Southeast Asia, we agree with those proposing to review and make adjustments on the implementation of guidelines and protocols set by the national government to stop virus transmission.
With the recent easing up of health protocols, fighting the spread of the virus that causes the Covid-19 in the absence yet of a vaccine will remain a difficult battle if strict compliance to health safety procedures – those prepared by experts and those known to us by common sense – is done only by a few and true only on paper.
It is for this reason we understand local government units that firmly subject returning stranded residents and overseas Filipino workers to another layer of quarantine before they are allowed back to their hometowns, despite the already stringent procedure they have to go through in their points of origin or as they set foot in the country in the case of those coming from overseas.
Based on records, recent Covid-19 cases are OFWs and those who returned home after the easing up of quarantine protocols and those who availed of the Balik Probinsya program.
In the Cordillera, the first positive cases recorded in most of its provinces are notably those from overseas and other provinces, and only a small percentage of the cases were due to local transmission.
While we acknowledge that no plans can be foolproof and we are still on the process of fully figuring out the nature of the virus and how to deal with it, we want to know why the procedures do not seem to work, since many of these returning residents turn out Covid-19 positive when tested in their respective provinces when they were supposed to have earlier undergone the test.
For the OFWs, the process upon arrival might be long but not difficult to follow: registration, confirmation, briefing, swab testing, immigration, quarantine facility assignment and 14-day quarantine, and receiving the results. If the results are negative, they will be issued a medical certificate and may go home. Those who are positive will be taken care of until recovery.
However most of those who were cleared to go arrive home as virus carriers, and so we cannot blame the LGUs, who despite wanting to welcome their own back by all means, have to detain them again for another round of quarantine to be doubly sure so as not to put the health of their constituents at risk.
Were there missteps in the procedure? Did the concerned person refuse to cooperate and go through the process?
We, therefore, support the request of the Benguet Inter-Agency Task Force through Gov. Melchor Diclas to the national IATF to mandate the strict completion of the 14-day quarantine of returning overseas Filipinos before they are allowed back to their respective provinces.
The governor added that if possible, the quarantine is completed “not only in paper.”
Also, as we expect much and depend primarily on health workers in this crisis, they should get all the support possible from the government and the public. The last thing we need now is being attended to by medical personnel who are not only the most at risk of acquiring the virus but who might succumb to exhaustion as well.
Authorities who implement the protocols should be firm in assuring rules are strictly followed. If there are shortcomings, we should own up and fix it, not cover it up in press releases.
To keep the number of Covid-19 cases from further rising, our appeal is the same and simple: we could not afford shortcuts in implementing strict anti-Covid measures and put the health of the majority – our own family members at that – at risk. By strict compliance, we mean there should also be no exception.
In assuring an uncertain and fearful public, putting our acts together in facing the realities of this pandemic should always be our best practice.