Pangasinan execs defend decision to bar entry of Miss Universe PH candidates, staff

Pangasinan officials defended the decision of their provincial government to bar the entry of three busloads of Miss Universe Philippines 2021 candidates and staff, saying the group had no travels permits and were there for "non-essential" purposes.

Dr. Anna de Guzman, chief of the Provincial Health Office (PHO); and Malu Elduayan, chief of the Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office (PTCAO) maintained that the provincial government was only strictly enforcing quarantine rules, when asked about the incident in an interview over DWCM Aksyon Radyo Pangasinan on Thursday, September 16.

Initially, the provincial government barred three busloads of Miss Universe Philippines contestants and staff from entering the Urdaneta City border control checkpoint on Sunday, September 12, after they failed to show travel coordination permits (TCPs).

“Wala po silang maipakita na TCP, kahit S-PaSS wala po, kaya pinabalik po sila (They could not present a TCP, even an S-PaSS, so they were asked to turn back),” said Elduayan.

Police Major Rowel Albano, Urdaneta City PNP officer-in-charge, said they were unable to determine the number of people in the buses.

Pre-pageant activities were supposedly scheduled to be held in the province, and the candidates and their companions were to be billeted at the Monarch Hotel in Calasiao town.

Following the initial denial of entry, Elduayan said they later received a letter from the pageant organizers, stating their intent to conduct their pre-pageant activities in the province. This request, too, was rejected, as officials cited the September 7 executive order of Governor Amado Espino III.

Executive Order No. 0102-2021 reiterates the guidelines on implementing general community quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions in the province from September 8 to 30, 2021. Section 8.B. says “non-APORs (authorized persons outside of residence) and tourists from areas under ECQ and MECQ shall not be allowed entry into Pangasinan.”

De Guzman said the EO applies to everyone – not only civilians and tourists, but even pageant candidates and organizers.

 “Ipinatupad po 'yan, sila man ay citizens, or mga candidates ng contest. Wala po tayong kinikilingan (That applies to citizens as well as candidates of a contest. We don't favor anyone),” said De Guzman.

 De Guzman said the provincial coronavirus task force deems pre-pageant activities as a form of non-essential activity and falls under mass gatherings.

“Malalaking event po 'yan, mag-iimbita ng maraming mga panauhin na hindi po natin kakayanin (It's a big event, many guests will be invited, and we won't be able to handle it),” she added.

She added that the hotel that would accommodate the candidates is located in a town where a high number of COVID-19 cases had been recorded.

“Lalo at ang tutuluyan po nila ay Calasiao na may napakarami pong kaso, nasa critical zone, and clustered cases (Especially in the place where they would be staying, Calasiao – it has no many cases, it's in a crical zone, and clusted cases),” said De Guzman.

The Calasiao municipal health office recorded 326 active cases as of Wednesday, September 15. Neighboring Dagupan City recorded 975 active cases, with eight new Delta variant cases recorded. – Rappler.com

Ahikam Pasion is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.