Lack of unified guidelines to bring chaos

Barangay captains in the capital town of Virac who initiated last week’s meeting at Plaza Rizal to discuss issues related to the Enhanced Community Quarantine that they are implementing in their respective villages should be commended for their effort.

The Punong Barangays have been worrying that the coronavirus could infect their constituents in the light of the reported abuse of quarantine passes issued to each household. In the past week, it had been observed that so many people with barangay passes have been coming to the town center, especially at the market, that the required social distancing was no longer being followed.

Upon the suggestion of Virac police chief Maj. Bon Billy Timuat, it will be the police who will issue a limited number of quarantine passes, at a maximum of 10% of the barangay’s households.

Under the scheme, the police passes will be issued to household representatives on a first-come, first-served basis, with the barangay to list the applicants and their purpose in going to town. They will be given about three hours to complete their errands, after which they will have to return the passes to the barangay for use of other household heads.

The barangays also agreed to implement a traffic rerouting scheme on their own, including the designation of entrance and exit points.

However, observers noted the lack of uniform guidelines to govern the issuance of the quarantine pass as well as the implementation of a traffic rerouting scheme.

For instance, there has to be a commonality on how the pass would be issued, since for a barangay of 300 households, only a maximum of 30 such passes would be available at any given time.

On the other hand, barangays far from the town proper would have to give a longer period of time for the use of the pass, especially if the user has no vehicle and would have to walk all the way to the market or drugstore.

On the other hand, barangays should not be allowed to designate entrance and exit points on their own, particularly if they share the same road with their adjoining barangay.

For example, the Calatagan Tibang barangay council installed a checkpoint along Real St. at its boundary with Calatagan Proper. Only vehicles coming from the Proper side are allowed entry, with those who travelled along the provincial road from Danicop told to take a right turn towards the farthest street three blocks away before they could exit Tibang.

This has led to a lot of grumbling among motorists, who will have to waste precious fuel to negotiate the roundabout route just to reach their house in Calatagan Proper or pass through the two barangays.

Any rerouting affecting provincial roads or municipal roads linking one barangay to another should be approved by both barangay councils.

There is no problem with barangays barricading their roads to allow one or two entrance and exit points as long as motorists transiting through provincial or municipal roads, as well as the barangay’s own residents, are given the shortest way possible.

Despite the suggestion that barangay captains issue their own executive orders on the pass issuance and traffic rerouting, it appears none or very few have complied.

It is now up to the municipal government to issue an executive order or advisory on the issuance of the PNP quarantine pass and the rerouting of traffic in the barangays so the entire scheme would not tax any further the sanity of the people.

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