Antigen-positive travelers now allowed to board but…

Travelers bound for Catanduanes who journeyed without undergoing COVID-19 test but tested positive in antigen testing at Tabaco port are now being allowed to board the ferry.

Information reaching the Tribune disclosed that ferry operators and cargo ship owners were called to a meeting at the Provincial Capitol last Friday, June 18, 2021, on the handling of antigen-positive travelers.

Under the agreement reached during the meeting, such passengers bound for San Andres, Caramoran and Pandan towns will be allowed to board the 1pm ferry of Regina Shipping Lines (RSL), with the suspect COVID cases to stay at the roof deck accommodation of the ship.

On the other hand, similarly-situated passengers journeying to the towns of Virac, Bato, San Miguel, Baras, Gigmoto, Viga, Panganiban and Bagamanoc are supposed to board the return trip of the Virac port-based M/V Silangan V.

Upon arrival at the two ports, the suspect COVID-19 cases are supposed to be fetched by an ambulance from their destination LGUs which shall bring them to either a government isolation facility or their homes for the 14-day quarantine.

Less than a day after the meeting, however, the agreement was put to the test when a traveler tested positive in the antigen laboratory at the port.

He was supposed to board the M/V Silangan V last Saturday afternoon but the management allegedly texted the Tabaco border control team that it is not yet ready to accept the passenger as the vessel still has no designated isolation area on board.

A source told the Tribune that the team is now in a bind as it has no choice but to let the passenger stay at the port to await the directive from the Capitol on what to do in his case, pending Cardinal Shipping Lines’ compliance with the agreement.

The antigen-positive traveler would have to seek a suitable spot where he could sleep inside the port that evening but outside the passenger terminal building, as the Philippine Ports Authority in Tabaco has not designated an isolation or holding area inside the facility.

This development comes as the provincial government of Catanduanes began allowing point-to-point travel between NCR Plus areas and the island province pursuant to Resolution 118-A issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) last May 31, 2021.

In Executive Order No. 024 released by Governor Joseph Cua last June 18, such travel from GCQ areas such as the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal is now allowed beginning June 21 provided that all Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs) and non-national government agency APORs traveling from such areas must submit an original copy of negative RT-PCR test results valid for three days from date of testing.

In an amendment signed on Saturday, June 19, APORs from national government agencies need not secure an S-PaSS.

On the other hand, travelers from MGCQ areas must submit an original copy of either negative RT-PCR, antigen or saliva RT-PCR test results with the same validity period.

For those coming from ECQ and MECQ areas, only APORs or people qualified for essential travel will be allowed in, such as health and emergency frontline services and uniformed personnel, government officials and employees on official travel, humanitarian teams or personnel, those traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons, persons going to and from the airport, anyone crossing zones for permitted work or business, or public utility vehicle operators.

The negative test result requirement is just part of those needed in uploading to the Safe, Swift & Smart Passage (S-PaSS) travel management system.

Under the new EO, all APORS from national government agencies, regardless of their origin, will just have to upload a valid travel order or mission order, company ID and date of return.

For private APORs from ECQ and GCQ areas, documents needed include the travel or mission order, company ID, date of return and the original copy of negative RT-PCR test result.

Non-APORs on essential travel from ECQ and MECQ areas, on the other hand, must submit a document proving the passenger is on essential travel as well as the original copy of the negative RT-PCR test result.

Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) from GCQ areas must upload to the S-PaSS system their passport, Certificate from the Bureau of Quarantine valid for three days, and the original copy of negative RT-PCR test result with three-day validity.

Aside from a government-issued ID, the LSI shall upload to S-PaSS the original copy of the negative RT-PCR test result (in case of GCQ origin) or that of RT-PCR, antigen or saliva test result (in case of MGCQ origin).

Informed sources say the new EO was not received well at the Incident Management Team (IMT) headed by Dr. Angel Albert Lamban, who reportedly claimed that the IATF Resolution No. 118-A is not binding on the provincial government.

The team is also apprehensive that health screening of passengers at the ports will not be effective as a sick traveler is likely to hide any symptom to avoid being subjected to the 14-day quarantine.

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