As the world faces an economic downturn because of Covid-induced lockdowns, Cebu Province begins its post-ECQ rules to ease restrictions on business while maintaining strict measures to protect public health.
It has become apparent after nearly two months of lockdown that the much-feared virus is not going away soon and has become a “fear pandemic,” so Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is finding ways to balance the protection of both human lives and the economy from the devastating effects of Covid-19.
"Kaning kahadlok nga hilabihan naka-apektar sa panginabuhi sa atong mga kaigsuonan. Di na ni angay, sobra na ni atong kahadlok. Duha na ni ka pandemic, ang usa Covid-19 ug ang usa, mao ang fear pandemic," she said.
To this end, Executive Order No. 17 was signed today, May 19, for the protocols to be followed under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) which begins May 20.
Major changes in the shift from the severe restrictions in the ECQ to the GCQ include opening of most businesses, accommodation establishments, and a percentage of the public transport; regular operating hours for banks, and government work on full operational capacity depending on heads of offices.
However, the shift from ECQ to GCQ does not mean full freedom for movement of people.
"Di pasabot nga kaniadto naa ra mo sa balay, karon makasuroy suroy na mo. Duna tay luag-luagan apan magpadayon gihapon ang community quarantine," the governor said.
Cebu Province is still under community quarantine, so curfew is still imposed, quarantine passes are still used, public gatherings are still prohibited, and strict control continues at the borders between Cebu Province and Cebu City.
Despite the GQC status, still prohibited are fitness gyms, sports and recreation centers, bars and pubs, karaoke establishments, movie houses, swimming pools, cockpits, and other leisure establishments.
Tourism activities, social gatherings, drinking in public places, and gambling are also strictly prohibited.
"Naa gani mahitabo tigbakay ang kapitan moy akong patubagon kay wa may mahitabo nga tigbakay kun way kapitan," Garcia warned.
All establishments that are allowed to open must still observe curfew hours and public health measures like physical distancing, wearing of masks, temperature checks and others.
Hotels, restaurants and accommodation establishments may operate, but bookings must be limited to one person per room, and celebrations, parties or gatherings of any form with more than 10 people together are not allowed.
Dine-in at restaurants or fastfood chains and carenderias may be allowed now, but limited to 50 percent of the area’s carrying capacity and provided that the airconditioning units, if available, are not turned on.
Malls and shopping centers are allowed to open, but subject to rules imposed by the Department of Trade and Industry during community quarantine.
However, use of air-conditioning units and WiFi hotspot services will not be allowed to discourage people from gathering and over-staying in malls. Trips to shopping centers must be for essential purposes only, the governor said.
Since Cebu Province is still under quarantine, existing policies on LGU-issued quarantine passes for access to essential goods and services will still be observed.
Garcia had given authority to local chief executives to issue additional quarantine pass to a single family as well as imposing barangay lockdowns to areas which have Covid-19 cases.
"Ang paggawas sa balay alang lamang gayud kun kamo adunay trabaho ug adunay essential ug importante nga hinungdan nga kamo mogawas," she said.
While Cebu City's ECQ status remains and its number of positive cases continue to rise, the protocols enumerated in the Executive Order No. 5-Q-1 regulating people who cross borders with Cebu City and Cebu Province, and the exemptions, are still in place.
However, lawyers in private practice have been added to the list of exemptions so they can attend the scheduled hearings in the different towns and cities of the province which will start this week.
They are required to present to checkpoints their Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) membership card and the court order or resolution that will reflect their scheduled hearings.
Entry of persons from other provinces is still not allowed. Returning OFWs or non-OFWs may be allowed entry, subject to several rules and stringent requirements.
Cebuanos who are stranded in other towns and cities within Cebu and even Cebu City are now allowed to go back to their hometowns.
They only need to secure the written consent from the mayor of their hometown and a one-day exit pass issued by the Capitol.
The governor also said a family, which will include their young children and those who are 18-years old and below, will be given a pass.
Meanwhile, for the faithful, Garcia said that churches will now be open for those who want to come in and pray, provided that strict physical distancing will be implemented.
Online mass celebrations, however, will continue and touching of religious icons and the Holy Water will not be allowed.
As more people may come out of their houses now to go to work, health regimens to strengthen people’s immune system are included in the executive order.
This is why walking, jogging, or non-contact sports activities are allowed from 6:00 to 9:00 in the morning and 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Bathing in the sea is allowed from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon subject to rules on physical distancing and quarantine of immune-compromised people.
"Kung gusto mo maligo ug dagat, adto ra mo kaligo sa inyong kaugalingong dagat sa inyong lungsod. Dili nga mag-outing mo. Ayaw sa nang mga beach party," Garcia advised. (Jeanette Malinao, Vanessa Almeda)