Cebu City suspends quarantine pass; Cebu province to close borders with city by Friday

QUARANTINE PASSES in Cebu City, which gives residents permit to go out and purchase essential items, have been suspended effective 10 p.m. Tuesday as local and national officials rush to contain the surge in coronavirus cases. In a video message posted midnight, Mayor Edgardo C. Labella made the official announcement as he called for “calm and understanding as we work out the details” of the extreme lockdown. “This drastic measure was put in place after an Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) team went around the city earlier today and still found many people out of their homes,” he said. Since June 16, the city was already placed under the strictest quarantine category, the only area in the country with such restrictions. The national IATF, headed by Cabinet members, went to Cebu City Tuesday to assess and plan the response measures with cases at over 4,800, the highest in the country.

Meanwhile, Cebu Provincial Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia announced Wednesday that it will close its borders with Cebu City starting Friday, June 26. Cebu City, the commercial and political center of the province, is independent from the provincial government. The border closure will mean residents of the province working in the city will have to decide whether to stay in their hometown or in the city. “We will give you the next 48 hours, after that you have to choose, stay in Cebu City or you have to go back to your LGUs (local government unit),” said Ms. Garcia, adding that certificates of employment or any identification card will not be given consideration. The borders are in Talisay City in the south, Mandaue City and Consolacion in the north, and Balamban town in the west. — MSJ

Davao de Oro partners with DICT, UNDP for free WiFi

THE DAVAO de Oro government has signed an agreement with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the installation of free WiFi sites around the province. Governor Jayvee Tyron L. Uy, in a statement on his Facebook page late Tuesday, said 186 WiFi hotspots will be rolled out, of which 171 will be in public schools and 15 at the municipal hall and plazas. “This is a big help especially now that there will be a shift into alternative methods for educating our youth,” he said. Mr. Uy also announced that a P7 million budget under the Special Education Fund has been realigned to assist the Department of Education’s blended learning program for the coming school year that will start August. This will be used to purchase pre-paid WiFi modems, external drives, and transistor radios. “Several partners are also reaching us that they want to assist in our initiatives, programs and projects,” he added.

Meanwhile, the provincial government also signed this week an agreement with the Philippine Genome Center at the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao and the Department of Science and Technology regional office for the establishment of a test laboratory for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In a statement on its Facebook page, the local government said the laboratory will be set up at the Davao de Oro Provincial Hospital in Montevista and is targeted to be operational by August. The province has recorded 11 COVID-19 cases, with three recoveries and eight still active. Mr. Uy said having their own laboratory will allow the conduct of wider testing and faster turnaround of results as well as help lessen the load of other accredited laboratories in the Davao Region. “There is no other way but to test, test, and test,” he said, noting that without immediate testing, authorities could not implement treatment and contact tracing. — MSJ

Red tide warning up in Puerto Princesa

THE BUREAU OF Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has warned consumers against eating shellfish collected from Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan after the area tested positive for red tide contamination. In a statement, BFAR said Honda Bay joins other red tide positive areas such as the coastal waters off Dauis and Tagbilaran City in Bohol, Balite Bay, Mati City in Davao Oriental, and Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur. “All types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or alamang gathered from the areas are not safe for human consumption,” BFAR said. Other sea products such as fish, squids, and crabs are safe to eat provided these are fresh, washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are taken out before cooking.

Meanwhile, BFAR clarified that the recent cases of fish mortality reported in Taal Lake and Laguna de Bay were not from an outbreak of diseases. The agency said the cases of fish mortality in the two areas is due to low dissolved oxygen arising from abrupt weather changes, and not from an outbreak of diseases that affect tilapia or shrimp. As part of biosecurity measures, BFAR said it has been requiring health certificates in the transport or movement of tilapia fry and fingerlings and shrimp in post larvae stage for grow-out since 2015. “The agency, through its regional offices, will continue to strictly enforce Fisheries Order numbers 100 and 241 to ensure that the spread of fish diseases… is controlled and the tilapia and shrimp industries are protected,” BFAR said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave