Seares: Cebu Province 'closes borders' to Cebu City and vice versa: how it must work

Pachico A. Seares

IT is plain enough. As Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia explained Sunday, March 29, in a live-streamed talk from the Capitol, the sealing of borders is a necessary component of an "enhanced community quarantine" (ECQ).

Both the governments of Cebu City and Cebu Province are in both state, having locked down one after the other, Saturday and Sunday. The separate acts have resulted in Cebu City being walled off by land from the rest of the province: through Mandaue City in the north, Balamban in the west and Talisay City in the south. By sea, in the east, Cebu City alone controls the seaports within its area.

Territorial jurisdiction

Territorial jurisdiction plays here because of the decision of each to lock down as a facet of ECQ. It is Capitol though that appears to be very keen about shutting out Cebu City residents, fearing infection of "probinsyanos" by residents from the big city as more cases of Covid-19 infections are confirmed here. Guv. Gwen was clear and emphatic about the risk that exposure of her constituents to Cebu City folks would give.

Procedure

But here's the thing: to make the lockdown work, murky areas in basic procedure must be explained.

The Province and Cebu City may have set up separate checkpoints since they have separate decisions, interests, or more particularly, they have separate lists of persons and vehicles allowed to pass. While the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) are the same for LGUs, Capitol and City Hall may differ in choosing whom to accredit.

Until this writing, media news stories and PIO news feed from the LGUs have not specified whether there are separate checkpoints of the two local governments. They may have only one set of checkpoints. Even so, guards at checkpoints have to apply two sets of rules and examine two sets of border passes.

OK from each LGU

Former Cebu City mayor Alvin Garcia, in a Facebook post, said Cebu City cannot be "given" by the city since the Province (through its units Mandaue, Talisay and Balamban,) "has its own rules" and don't have "to respect (Cebu City's) border passes for their own reasons."

Having only Capitol border passes assumes that to cross boundaries, one needs only the consent of Capitol and its units.

People and vehicles that Capitol allows to cross to Cebu City may not be allowed by Cebu City to enter. And the reverse: those that Cebu City allows to cross into a town or city that's part of the Province may not be allowed by Capitol rules.

A solution to that is for checkpoints to honor a pass from either LGU, if that arrangement is acceptable to both.

Border incidents

Two incidents at checkpoints where the governor reportedly berated guards may have involved not just their failure to understand the rules but also of probable clash of guidelines issued by the two LGUs.

To members of the public that need to cross borders because of their work, the case of news reporters covering the LGUs illustrates the complication.

Required documents

To move within Cebu City, they need a "stay-at-home" exemption pass. When they have to cross borders, say, to Mandaue City or Talisay City, what do they need? Maybe a border pass from Cebu City, which allows them to leave and return, and a border pass from Capitol, which allows them to enter and leave. Unless Capitol and City Hall will simplify the process, the issue hangs.

Cebu City Councilor Raymond Garcia on Monday, March 30, told Jayson Monteclar on dyCM radio that company ID of the media practitioner is enough. But Capitol says media persons have to be accredited by the office of the governor.

Might help

A news reporter operating in Cebu City must know what documents to present while moving within Cebu City and other parts of the province. Same thing for thousands of others: doctors, nurses, health workers, and workers in essential industries who must be out there while we hide in our homes.

A small problem in the great crisis, compared to the enormous requirement of preparing for the ever-increasing pressure on health-care and food resources in the coming weeks.

Yet the semblance of order, amid the confusion and uncertainty, could help us in going through this severe ordeal.