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The Cagayan de Oro City government has required nearly all establishments in the city, including churches, to participate in the month-long dry run of its controversial “Higala app” ordinance, which will take effect in May.
But nothing really comes for free even if city hall says otherwise. Although unwritten in the local law, internet use or subscription and smartphone ownership became mandatory for all dry run participants in the city starting this month.
In effect, it also mandates establishments to shoulder the burden of hiring or assigning workers with the task of scanning QR codes barely a month ahead of the May 5 implementation of the ordinance.
In a statement to Rappler on Friday, April 9, city hall said participants need not spend for the dry run because all they need are android phones to scan QR codes required of all people entering establishments.
Maricel Casino-Rivera, city hall spokesperson, said the establishments are expected to provide android phones at their entrances. The scanner app, she said, can be downloaded for free on smartphones.
“If the establishment has an existing company-owned android phone, then the establishment will no longer shoulder any cost during the dry run,” Rivera said.
Yet the ordinance virtually makes subscription to internet services, android phone ownership, and the hiring or assignment of workers to scan QR codes compulsory, even for establishments that had none prior to the approval of City Ordinance No. 14023-2021 or the Higala app law.
The city government enumerated the list of the April dry run participants: tourism-related establishments, facilities, hospitals, schools, markets, terminals, funeral parlors, cemeteries, churches and other places of worship, all government offices, airconditioned or closed public transportation, and non-tourism related establishments “with heavy foot traffic.”
Rivera said the Higala system, developed last year, enables anyone to run the downloaded app even offline.
She said there is no need for establishments to have stable internet connection when scanning the QR codes, but they are required to transmit their scanned data to city hall via the internet within 24 hours.
“It is only during the transmission of data when establishments are compelled to connect to the internet,” Rivera said.
The Higala app, developed by city hall’s in-house IT professionals in collaboration with the City Health Office, is designed to make the COVID-19 contact-tracing work of frontline health workers easier, efficient, and fast.
Growing opposition to the new city law, spearheaded by the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Oro Chamber), forced the City Council to suspend its April 7 implementation until May 5. – Rappler.com