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Chiz laments new IATF protocols on travel

By Bobby Q. Labalan

Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero described as inconsistent and irrational the recent issuances by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19 (IATF) that sets new regulations for travelers in the country.

In a press briefing held Monday, Mar. 15, Escudero described IATF Resolution No. 101-2021 as anti-poor as it allows and accepts only the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, which costs about P5,000 per test compared to the Anti-Gen Test costing only about P500 to P1,000 each.

The latest IATF resolution adopted the policies drafted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) that sets the uniform travel protocols for land, air and sea travel. The new IATF rules eliminated the need for travel pass from the Philippine National Police (PNP) as well as the medical certificate being issued by local medical authorities.

Instead, it imposed the use of the Safe, Swift and Smart Passage (SPaSS) Travel Management System as one-stop shop for applications for travelers as well as the System for contact tracing.

Escudero, however, noted that both systems are not yet fully operational in many areas, which would make it difficult for most travelers to access.

He also noted that the systems are only accessible for travelers who use high-end smart phones, which most Filipinos do not have.

“I thought they wanted to simplify the system and make it easier for us to travel, but the way things are, it seemed that it had become even more difficult,” the governor said.

Escudero stressed that local government units are required to follow no matter how irrational and inconsistent the regulations are.

To protect the province, Escudero issued Executive Order No. 11-2021 that sets guidelines for travelers coming to Sorsogon that somehow modified the IATF issuance.

Based on the governor’s new directive, the province would now accept public transport from other provinces within Bicol region only, but passengers would only disembark on unloading areas designated by municipal governments except for persons authorized outside of residence (APORs).

Travelers disembarking in designated stops are required to undergo medical assessment upon arrival.

According to Escudero, the requirements for quarantine would remain as stated in Executive Order No. 78-2020 except for travelers who have a Letter of Exception (LOE) or a negative RT-PCR test result taken within three days upon arrival.

The provincial government would also reactivate the checkpoint it had established but deactivated last week following the issuance of the IATF directive.

Escudero explained that such move would help minimize the entry of possible Covid-19 positive individuals into the province although it would not entirely prevent it.

He said that his directives would certainly be met with criticisms by some, but he stressed that his primordial consideration is always the health and safety of Sorsogueños.

Escudero pointed out that with the surging number of positive Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, there is an imperative need for a comprehensive regulations for the entry of travelers into the province.

Only when Sorsogon province is safe from Covid-19 would people want to come here, Escudero stressed.

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