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By: Mylen Manto | Published Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Those working in the grocery stores and supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies, restaurants, bakeries, fast food chains, and pizza chains are now exempted from border restrictions while Cebu Province is on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or lockdown.

On Tuesday, March 31, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) No. 5-O-1 providing additional exemptions under Section 15 of the earlier issued EO No. 5-O.

These persons will be allowed to enter the province from Cebu City by showing their work identification cards only at checkpoints.

“…cognizant of the need for the fluidity of operations in essential businesses such as groceries, supermarkets, pharmacies, drugstores, restaurants, and fast food chains, there is a need to include under Section 15 employees working in said establishments,” read E.O No. 5-O-1.

Also added in the list of exemptions are those in funeral services including funeral parlor employees, immediate family of the deceased, and officiating priests, imams, pastors, and other religious ministers.

Only 10 persons are allowed in the funeral service, in addition to the direct family members. Strict social distancing must be observed at all times as well.

At 12:01AM of March 30, the province closed its 10 borders from Cebu City due to the increasing positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the city.

Seven borders in Mandaue City were closed for the north, two in Talisay City for the south, and one in Balamban for the west.

In a press conference on Tuesday, March 31, Garcia said based on a local newspaper's report, there was a confusion of who are exempted to cross borders between Cebu City and Mandaue City.

Mandaue City, which falls under the political jurisdiction of the Cebu Provincial Government, has listed different exemptions from the latter.

However, Garcia said she respect the powers of the local autonomy of the mayors.

Cebu City, through Mayor Edgardo Labella, and Mandaue City, through Mayor Jonas Cortes, entered into a reciprocity agreement that allowed entries of exempted persons without the need of ECQ passes but subject to the presentation of appropriate identification documents.

Some of the cities' identified exempted persons are not included in the exemptions list of the Cebu Province enumerated in EO 5-O Section 15.

“I respect your own local autonomy, you can make the decision. It’s always a choice, I know. You can choose to face the criticisms now but in so doing perhaps save thousands of lives or we can postpone the criticism which will come anyway, if the virus spreads and lives will be lost," Garcia said.

"Kita raman gihapoy i-blame. That’s the role we have to play mao mana atong gipanumpaan. So timbang timbangon nato, kansang mga interest atong ipatigbabaw,” she added.

Although Garcia released an additional list of exemptions, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) agents and administrative personnel are still not included.

“Ngano wala ni nato gi-exempt? Thousands ni sila muanhi og Cebu City, sa pagkakaron giingon ko nga ang pinakadaghan og cases nga positibo og duna nata'y four deaths, ania sa Cebu City,” she explained.

“I have to put my foot down there kay were talking of thousands, nga maoy possible maka spread sa virus ig-uli nila. Ayaw mo'g ka insulto if mao na akong hunahuna kay kitang tanan, we are possible carriers. Ako, I could be, mao bitaw naa rako Cebu City ron wa nako ka bisita sa akong mga anak og ang akong mga apo,” the governor said.

However, Garcia said there were some BPOs that provided accommodation to their employees who are residents of the province in Cebu City.

The governor reiterated that closing the province’s borders from Cebu City is done to protect its constituents from the pandemic. The province is composed of seven component cities and 44 municipalities.

She explained that there is a “real and present danger” if those working in the BPOs will be allowed to freely travel to and from Cebu City because of a possibility that they might become carriers of the virus, thus spreading it to the province.

Meanwhile, Garcia said she received reports that those from northern towns like Liloan, Compostela, and Consolacion were asked to show border passes before allowed entry to Mandaue City.

The governor said there was no discussion or agreement about a border pass during the meeting of the mayors before the lockdown was implemented. What was agreed upon was the vehicle pass that needs to be secured.

“Those coming from Consolacion, Compostela, Liloan and the rest of northern local government units should not be restricted entry into Mandaue City. I am putting my foot down there too because this was not agreed upon by all mayors,” she said. (Mylen Manto)