BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The Negros Occidental provincial government on Tuesday, January 25, turned down Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia’s request to lift the COVID-19 RT-PCR test requirement for travelers from Metro Manila.
But in response to a request to “harmonize” travel requirements with its highly-urbanized, independent capital, the province suggested splitting the cost of RT-PCR tests on arrival.
Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz II gave the province’s response to Leonardia’s January 22 letter, which requested the replacement of RT-PCR tests with rapid antigen tests.
“For compassionate reason and to address the prolonged inconvenience of Bacolod-bound travelers who are also burdened with additional expense in re-booking their flights and paying for another round of RT-PCR test, we are lifting the negative RT-PCR test result as a requirement for travel to Bacolod City,” Leonardia told Governor Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson in his two-page letter.
Diaz said the province is “willing” to shoulder the RT-PCR tests from passengers coming from Manila when they arrive at the Bacolod-Silay airport, provided that Bacolod will also split the cost. The requirement currently covers fully-vaccinated travelers.
The provincial administrator explained that a rapid antigen test, which could be self-administered, is not reliable as there is no official body that issues the result.
Even RT-PCR test results can be faked, he noted.
“What is the basis of the result of the rapid test?” he asked.
The transmission of the virus right now is “very fast,” he stressed, “why can’t we adjust for a few weeks?”
Bacolod Emergency Operations head Em Ang told Rappler, “We have no problem with providing test kits but our intention is to screen all Bacolod-bound passengers to make sure that positive patients are not allowed to travel. That is why we are (currently) requiring that a negative test result be presented before traveling.”
The Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) on January 26 said Bacolod’s average daily attack rate was 22.74 per 100,000 population, while the province’s was 5.99. ADAR is the number of new cases over the past 14 days per 100,000 population in the area of concern.
Bacolod has a 531% two-week growth rate and a 42% positivity rate. The province’s two-week growth rate is 590% with a 31% positivity rate.
Leonardia released his letter on January 24, saying he wanted to harmonize travel rules with the province.
But before the letter’s release, he had already signed an executive order lifting RT-PCR requirements for travelers from Iloilo and from Negros Oriental.
The airport is in Silay City, which is under the province’s jurisdiction.
The two major ports used by travelers from Iloilo are in Bacolod City.
Diaz said they won’t intervene with the travel policies of Bacolod for Negrense residents in seaports, but stressed that they will be strict on passengers coming from Manila.
Iloilo City met Bacolod halfway by waiving the test requirement for fully-vaccinated passengers from Negros Occidental but insisted on an RT-PCR test for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated visitors.
The province will also continue to require travelers from Negros Oriental to submit RT-PCR test requirements, said Diaz.
Governor Lacson granted Leonardia’s request for a virtual meeting, setting a Zoom conference with all the province’s local officials on Friday, January 28.
Lacson is currently recovering from COVID-19.
The Department of Health in Region 6 has placed Bacolod in its list of critical provinces and cities and Negros Occidental as high risk. Malacanang’s Interagency Task Force (IATF) has placed both under Alert Level 3.
The DOH regional office on Wednesday, January 26 said Western Visayas is among the regions showing sustained case growth over the last seven days. – Rappler.com