Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia has asked Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson for a meeting to discuss areas of coordination between the city and the provincial governments, including the need to harmonize their respective travel policies for home-bound constituents.
Leonardia is proposing that inbound passengers from Manila be allowed Rapid Antigen Tests instead of RT-PCR tests.
“We would greatly appreciate an opportunity to have a virtual meeting with you and your team at your earliest convenient time, to discuss how we can coordinate and harmonize our respective travel guidelines for the safety, ease and convenience of our constituents,” Leonardia said in his letter to Lacson received by the Governor’s Office on Monday, January 23.
The Bacolod mayor cited that in the past weeks, the city government had been swamped with concerns from in-bound travelers from Manila, coursed through various social media platforms or complaints directly relayed to city officials over the requirement of a negative RT-PCR test result issued within 72 hours prior to their scheduled flights.
“Our city and provincial governments continue to be faced with difficult trade-offs given the health, economic and social challenges it raises. Managing this pandemic successfully requires our sustained, coordinated, and complementary efforts,” Leonardia added.
He also informed Lacson that the Bacolod City government is presently requiring all in-bound travelers to submit a negative RT-PCR test result issued within 72 hours of their flight schedule.
However, due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region, Leonardia pointed out, Department of Health-accredited clinics and molecular laboratories have been overwhelmed with the volume of RT-PCR tests, resulting to delays in the release of results beyond the 72-hour period as required.
This is giving rise to numerous complaints from home-bound passengers who turned to social media to express their frustrations over cancellation or re-scheduling of their flights. Others relayed their ire to local government officials, the mayor said.
“For compassionate reason and to address the prolonged inconvenience of Bacolod-bound travelers who are also burdened with additional expense in re-booking their flights and paying for another round of RT-PCR test, we are lifting the negative RT-PCR test result as a requirement for travel to Bacolod City,” Leonardia informed Lacson in his two-page letter.
In its stead, after lengthy discussion with our Emergency Operations Center Task Force and medical frontliners, the city government may honor a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) taken from the LGU of origin, in lieu of an RT-PCR Test, the mayor proposed to the governor.
“Notably, many of those inconvenienced because of delayed RT-PCR test results, do not stay in Metro Manila. Some are Bacolodnons staying with relatives in Laguna, Batangas, Cavite or elsewhere in Luzon,” he continued.
Leonardia further noted that molecular laboratories or clinics cannot also guarantee the passengers that their results will be out in time for their flight schedule.
They also raised the fact that an RT-PCR test costs them additional money with each procedure ranging from P3,300 to as much as P5,000 per test, he said.
The RAT, on the other hand, is only about P800 with result already available in 30 minutes to one hour at most, the mayor added.
“We are, therefore, proposing that in-bound passengers from Manila be allowed entry upon presentation of their negative RAT result instead of a negative RT-PCR result,” Leonardia further informed the governor.
He added: “We are also considering, that should a passenger coming from Manila fail to secure a copy of his RT-PCR test on time due to the delay of the molecular laboratories, he or she should be accepted to board his/her flight, provided that the said passenger undergo the RAT upon arrival at the Bacolod-Silay Airport”.
Leonardia also relayed to the governor that the Bacolod City government has already revised its travel policy by setting aside the RT-PCR test requirement for those coming from any LGU in Western Visayas and Negros Oriental, since the LGUs in the entire Region VI are under Alert Level 3.
Passengers from these areas will only be required to present their vaccination cards indicating that they are already fully-vaccinated, he added.
On Sunday, Leonardia released Executive Order No. 3, amending the city’s guidelines regarding inter-zonal and intra-zonal travels.*