THE recent lifting of travel restrictions in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble means residents in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces are now allowed to undertake point-to-point leisure travel to areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
This is covered by Resolution 118-A that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued on Monday, May 31, 2021.
This should be a boon to the ailing local tourism industry, which has suffered because of the absence of foreign visitors since the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic in March last year.
“Allowing leisure travel for all ages from the NCR Plus bubble to MGCQ areas will surely help local tourism back on track towards recovery,” said Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
The development is welcome news for the whole of Cebu, which has been under MGCQ for quite some time, especially after it suffered a setback when Malacañang diverted all international flights for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for one week, starting on Saturday, May 29.
The move caused an uproar among Cebuanos, who saw the move as a rebuke against Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for not toeing the party line, so to speak, when it came to quarantine protocols and guidelines for arriving overseas Filipino workers and returning overseas Filipinos.
The IATF insists on having its way even though the governor pointed out Section 105 of the Local Government Code, which only allows “the national government, through the health secretary, to assume direct supervision and control over health operations in any local government unit for the duration of the emergency” but only for up to six months.
Either way, the latest development complements the Provincial Government’s thrust to reopen its tourism industry. It has been pushing its Suroy-Suroy packages, which were designed to attract local tourists in the absence of foreign visitors.
It may not be a “win-win” situation, but it’s close to one.
It forced the national government to consider that Cebu under Garcia might be on the right track in its management of the Covid-19 situation. Otherwise, why give Health Secretary Francisco Duque III three days to study Cebu’s policy on arriving travelers.
Although Duque has been mum on what he has learned since, a top Department of Health official did acknowledge “that there are some good practices in Cebu Province that are worth replicating in the national level.”
However, there has been no news on whose policy will prevail come Sunday, June 6, when the MCIA once again accepts international flights. Will it be the IATF’s or Garcia’s?
Cebu waits with bated breath.