Cagayan De Oro City

Cagayan de Oro to implement Higala app law despite petition against it

Herbie Gomez
Cagayan de Oro to implement Higala app law despite petition against it

SUSPENDED. The implementation of a Cagayan de Oro mandating QR codes in business establishments is suspended after a position paper from businessmen.

Photo from Higala website

Mayor Oscar Moreno says the data collected by city hall through the Higala system would also be used in the city's ongoing vaccination program

Cagayan de Oro’s city hall is bent on implementing a controversial ordinance beginning Wednesday, May 5, that compels establishments to require people to show QR codes before entry. This, despite a petition against it by organized business groups in the city.

Mayor Oscar Moreno rejected the petition submitted by the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Oro Chamber), said the organization’s president, Ruben Vegafria.

“Provisions in that ordinance are punitive and can hurt businesses, and displace workers at this time when we’re all suffering from a pandemic,” Vegafria said.

The local law, City Ordinance No. 14023-2021, punishes violators with a 1-month suspension of business operations on the first offense, a 3-month suspension on the second, and business permit revocation on the third offense, plus minimal fines ranging from P1,000 to P3,000.

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Known as the Higala app ordinance, the measure aims to put in place a web-based system that would make it easier for city hall to trace those who were exposed to people found to be infected with COVID-19 in the city. 

Moreno said the data collected by city hall through the Higala system would also be used in the city’s ongoing vaccination program. City hall started giving jabs to the elderly late last week, after inoculating thousands of Cagayan de Oro’s frontline health workers. There are over 100,000 senior citizens in city hall’s list, and only a little over 1,000 were vaccinated on the first day.

The Oro Chamber’s petition forced the city council to stop the ordinance’s full implementation on April 7, moving it to May 5 so that councilors could have time to review and fine-tune the city law.

The council had 4 session days and a full month to go over the controversial ordinance and call public hearings, but that never happened, according to Councilor George Goking.

He said only one meeting was held during the period, and that it was far from being a public hearing.

Goking criticized Vice Mayor Raineir Joaquin Uy of outrightly rejecting calls to amend the ordinance, because this rejection, supposedly, was what Mayor Moreno wanted.

“A lot of us (councilors) wanted to review and amend it, but Kikang (Uy) just wouldn’t listen. He refused to heed, wouldn’t allow us to say our piece, and drowned everyone’s voice with his own opinion. That is not what is expected of a vice mayor, a presiding officer,” Goking, disappointed, told Rappler.

Chedillyn Dulquilme, spokesperson of city hall’s Higala app technical working group, said any change in the provisions of the ordinance would be the call of the city council.

She said the ordinance would be fully implemented without changes on Wednesday, as scheduled. 

Any change in the ordinance, she said, would have to come after the May 5 implementation. She said a committee would review the measure.

“The TWG (technical working group) answered the concerns raised by the Oro Chamber in the petition,” said Dulquilme, adding that the group found no need to change anything in the ordinance.

She said the Higala system would also be integrated into the national government’s Stay Safe PH app.

“As far as the penalties are concerned, they’re not harsh compared to the ones imposed in other cities,” Dulquilme said. –