RETURNING Filipinos, including overseas contract workers, will no longer be required to undergo quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Cebu Province if they test negative for the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
This new protocol, contained in Executive Order No. 17 issued by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on March 30, 2021, took effect at 12:01 a.m. of Wednesday, March 31.
Filipinos arriving from international trips are merely required to fill up online a passenger registration form at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) website and undergo a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for Sars-CoV-2 upon arrival at the airport.
They must also book a hotel room accredited with the Department of Tourism (DOT), where they will stay while awaiting the test result. Hotels that host transient Filipinos will be allowed to accept other bookings based on Department of Health (DOH) guidelines.
The RT-PCR test is conducted for free by the DOH.
Those with negative test results are allowed to immediately go home or leave for their hometowns. Garcia’s latest EO also directs the local government units (LGUs) to not impose any additional requirement.
However, those found positive for the virus will have to comply with DOH treatment and quarantine protocols. Asymptomatic and mild cases are brought to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities.
The directive covers both returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
All Filipinos are allowed entry into the country while some foreign travelers are restricted until April 21, 2021 as a measure against Covid-19 transmission.
In a press conference Wednesday, March 31, 2021, Garcia said the new protocol is aimed at reducing the travel costs incurred by a returning Filipino. This should also give OFWs more time with their families.
“If you go home, you must have a reason. And more often than not, (it’s an) emergency. They have limited time to spend with their family. If we require them to undergo quarantine, how many days will be left for their families?” Garcia argued.
EO 17 is also aimed at reducing the payables of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), which foots the bill for the temporary hotel accommodation of returning OFWs undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Carlo Suarez, president of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC), said in November 2020 that Owwa’s payables to 20 hotels had reached millions of pesos. Owwa has yet to settle its accounts.
Garcia said the decision to revise the travel protocol was reached during a meeting among officials of the DOT, DOH, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Quarantine, Owwa, Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority, airport operator GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp., airline companies and HRRAC. (ANV)