THE reimplementation of strict border controls by the Cebu City Government can bring adverse effects to the business community, which has already been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu said traffic ups the costs of logistics and hampers business recovery.
He said he saw lines of vehicles on the road leading to Cebu City in Barangay Subangdaku on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, the first day of the border control reimplementation.
Although the vehicles were moving, he said he expects traffic to get worse in the coming days.
“Traffic has monetary costs in terms of increased fuel costs, fewer turnaround time and opportunity losses. Therefore, it hinders the recovery period of businesses from the losses related to the pandemic, further dampening business sentiment,” Yu said.
The commuters going to Cebu City were mostly workers, he said.
Felix Taguiam, president of Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged business operators to do everything possible to ensure that their workers, clients and customers are safe and protected from the highly infectious Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Cause of gridlocks
“There is nothing to be alarmed of just yet, as there is no official information that Cebu City is experiencing a second wave. However, the rising Covid-19 cases should not be taken lightly as we do not wish to go back to a stricter form of community quarantine,” he said.
The Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue (Team) blamed Cebu City’s reimplementation of strict border controls for the heavy traffic in some parts of Mandaue City on Monday.
City Administrator Jamaal Calipayan, acting Team executive director, said approaches to the border with Cebu City – at the North Reclamation Area, in Barangays Subangdaku and Banilad -- experienced traffic gridlocks at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.
But traffic was normal in the rest of the city, he said.
Calipayan said they also expect heavy traffic on the two bridges after Lapu-Lapu City also implemented stricter border controls.
On Monday, the viaduct and the U-turn slot for the Marcelo Fernan Bridge were closed. Vehicles from Mandaue City were directed to Barangay Pusok where the checkpoint is located at the foot of the bridge.
Mario Napule, head of the Lapu-Lapu City Traffic Management System, said they will also set up random checkpoints on the first bridge to inspect the quarantine passes and travel passes of drivers and passengers.
He said they will loosen border checkpoints during peak hours, though, to prevent traffic congestion.
Traffic was felt not only in the northern border of Cebu City. It also delayed the arrival of buses in the south, which stranded many commuters at several bus stops.
On Monday morning, photos of commuters disregarding social distancing as they waited for a ride in Barangay Bulacao went the rounds on social media.
City Transportation Office (CPO) head Alma Casimero said the traffic in Bulacao and the long lines of commuters at bus stops started as early as 5:30 a.m. and lasted until noon.
She said the buses arrived late because they were all forced to stop at the border and were boarded by law enforcers who checked every passenger to make sure they had legitimate business in Cebu City and they complied with minimum health guidelines.
Mayor Edgardo Labella said problems were expected on Monday since it was the first day of the reimplementation of strict border controls.
Labella said CPO personnel assured him that adjustments will be made to prevent the same traffic situation from happening again.
Casimero asked commuters and motorists to expect and bear with heavy traffic while the City implements strict border controls.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, Labella announced that only authorized persons outside of residence (Apor), workers in the city and those with legitimate concerns would be allowed to enter Cebu City.
The mayor saw the need to limit entry after Cebu City logged double-digit new Covid-19 cases for several days.
The move drew criticism from a member of the legal sector.
In a post on social media, Benjamin Cabrido Jr., an environmental lawyer, pointed out that Cebu City’s latest policy is inconsistent with the national policy, which permits movement of non-Apor within areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
He said Section 7 of the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine states that “the interzonal movement of non-Apor between areas placed under MGCQ for any purpose shall be permitted subject to the reasonable regulations imposed by the local government units concerned, if any, and which should be submitted to the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government).”
“Unless it is declared under a status higher than MGCQ and GCQ, Cebu City may not absolutely restrict entry of non-Apor into its jurisdiction sans approval from the DILG and/or the IATF-MEID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” he added.
As of press time, the mayor had not issued an executive order on the matter. (JOB, JJL, KFD with FVQ)