THE Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) will not accept international arrivals for two days, starting on Friday, May 14, 2021.
Department of Health (DOH) 7 Director Jaime Bernadas, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III and DILG 7 Director Leocadio Trovela were informed by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia during a virtual press conference on Thursday, May 13, that the 2,500 rooms in 35 accredited quarantine hotels for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) are almost full.
Majority of them are still waiting for the results of their RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) test.
“As of last night we were facing a crisis. Why? Because the 2,500 rooms that were made available for OFWs and ROFs were already nearing full capacity and for that reason ang MCIAA ni deklara nga mo sira ugma (Mayo 14-15, 2021) (the airport authority declared that the international terminal will be closed for two days). I cancel na ang mga flights (International flights will be canceled)... Di sa ta mudawat ug incoming flights kay wa nay mabutangan (Cebu won’t be accepting incoming international flights for the meantime because we have nowhere to put the passengers),” Garcia said.
The governor also informed DILG officials about Cebu Province’s new policy for Cebuanos who are returning home.
She said they will undergo a swab test upon arrival at the airport and wait for two to three days in a designated hotel.
If the result comes out negative, they will be free to go home, where they will undergo home quarantine. On the seventh day, they will undergo another swab test.
Garcia assured that the test will be free.
If the result comes out positive, they will be transported to isolation facilities for treatment.
This was agreed upon during an emergency meeting on Monday, May 10, between Garcia and regional heads of government line agencies forming the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, and officials of the MCIA and the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC).
On Thursday, the governor also issued a memorandum that outlines protocols for OFWs and ROFs who are not from Cebu but will be transiting through the Mactan airport.
Upon check-in at the place of their departure, they must present a Letter of Acceptance from the local government unit (LGU) of destination and proof of their flight from Cebu to their LGU of destination, if they are ROFs. OFWs don’t have to present proof of their connecting flight as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) will arrange sweeper flights for their return to their LGU of destination.
Upon their arrival at the MCIA, they will also be swabbed. If their RT-PCR test results come out negative, they will stay in their hotel or in the airport’s designated holding area until their next flight.
“And I wish to repeat that, please, ayaw mo pag-ingon ha nga nag-discriminate ko to (don’t say that I am discriminating against) those that are not Cebuanos. I am just presenting the local autonomy of the local government concerned,” Garcia said.
She also urged all OFWs and ROFs to comply with the directives under Executive Order 17 that she signed and issued and were passed into law on Monday to avoid any inconvenience.
Meanwhile, the HRRAC has encouraged hotel members to get accredited as quarantine hotels to accommodate more OFWs and ROFs.
HRRAC president Alfred Reyes said the arrangement will be good for hotels that have suffered from the lack of tourists since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Currently, we have hotels that are willing to convert into quarantine hotels, but some are expressing hesitation over the price of Owwa, which is half of the price they pay to Manila hotels,” he said.
However, Reyes said the Owwa central office has assured that there is a budget to pay hotels for the OFWs’ stay.
Reyes said they will see how it will go for the next 15 days since policies continue to evolve.
Quarantine hotels have 60 to 80 percent occupancy, while leisure hotels are at single-digit occupancy except on Saturdays, he said.
“In the days to come, I hope we will have more hotels that will convert to quarantine, especially if the occupancy is really well,”he said.
Reyes said they also hope the Department of Tourism and the DOH will consider their plea to allow hotels to accept both leisure and quarantine guests under strict safety protocols.
“I hope they will reconsider that, especially now that more rooms are really needed,” he said. (ANV / PJB / JOB)