WHAT WE KNOW. (1) Three malls and some Colon movie-houses in Cebu City want to reopen to the public under the authority granted by IATF, the inter-agency group against Covid-19 and other infectious diseases, to the movie-showing business under its guidelines for areas under MGCQ or modified general quarantine. The IATF rules limit admission to 50 percent of capacity.
(2) Mayor Edgardo Labella met with the operators Wednesday, October 7, to discuss up health safeguards the cine establishment and the moviegoers will observe. Operators will submit their plan and Labella will issue an executive order with the conditions if he grants the request. Countries across the world are planning for the cinemas' return to business.
(3) The city's IATF Emergency Operations Center (EOC), through Councilor Joel Garganera, earlier expressed his objection to move, citing the risk of reviving the spread of coronavirus. Garganera, deputy chief implementer of IATF's operations center in the city, was quoted as saying, "I am very much against that."
THE SITUATION. Mayor Labella has not yet decided the plea of the cinemas through the Cebu Chamber of Commerce but apparently, he wants to allow the revival of business provided public health is not endangered.
There must be the residue of trauma from the experience of the city being shoved from GCG back to ECQ during the June 16-30 phase of the seemingly unending quarantine. That was when Cebu City was tagged the epicenter of Covid in the country (in the entire planetary system, according to a city resident's post). Cebuanos were ridiculed as hard-headed by President Rodrigo Duterte who dramatized the city's plight by having retired generals flown in to help local leaders.
Labella indicated at a press-con, also on Wednesday, he'd be reopening businesses slowly ("hinay-hinay lang, atong tan-awon"), saying he wouldn't like "to go back" to that second-half-of-June ordeal.
As though eyeing Councilor Garganera's opposition, the mayor said he'd be coordinating with the regional IATF.
GARGANERA AGREES ON LINE OF AUTHORITY. The national IATF, under its guidelines for MGCQs, already allows the limited reopening of cinemas. Cebu City is under MGCQ but the cine operators cannot automatically resume business; the city has to approve it. The mayor's OK is needed and he is inclined to grant the request. But IATF's Garganera told the news media he is "strongly" opposed to it. So what gives?
There may be no problem on the decision-making. Councilor Garganera, it turns out, concedes to Labella's "discretion." The councilor told SunStar Thursday, October 8, "the mayor has the discretion to allow the operation of cinemas even at the 50 percent capacity as he knows the current state of the local government better." The IATF, Garganera said, has guidelines on minimum protocols to prevent the spread of the virus. "Other than that, the LGU may choose to be more prudent on implementing the policies."
HOW IT WORKS. Mayor Labella, who said he had a talk with IATF chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., explained it thus: Local governments may tighten the rules, according to the best discretion of the LGU's chief executive, since the mayor knows the local conditions better. But an LGU cannot loosen the restriction set by the national task force without the approval of IATF.
Cinemas can already reopen under IATF rules. But the mayor decides when and how, provided the conditions are not less than what the national task force instructs.
What is not explained is a situation where the LGU tightens the rule so hard that it negates the grant of reopening to the business involved.
AIR FILTRATION, POPCORN. Preparations elsewhere in the world on health protocols for cinemas include the problem of air filtration, since moviegoers spend more than an hour in a single enclosed room. How will that problem be addressed?
Minimum guidelines from the IATF that Councilor Garganera wants to be observed are basically the limit on the number of people per showing, wearing of face mask and shield, physical distancing inside the theater, and taking of temperatures at the gate. And no eating inside the theater: popcorn, which deliciously goes with movie watching, most likely will be taboo.