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Capitol requires S-PaSS, Diaz, Ang dispute erupts

Capitol and City PIO photos

The Negros Occidental provincial government will continue to require all incoming passengers at the Bacolod-Silay Airport in Silay City to register for an S-PaSS prior to travelling to the province to protect Negros and Bacolod residents from another COVID-19 surge, Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz said Monday, November 22.

Even Bacolod residents should obtain an S-PaSS since the airport is in Silay City that is part of Negros Occidental, he said.

Emergency Operations Center – Task Force Executive Director Em Legaspi Ang on Sunday said that an S-PaSS is no longer required for fully-vaccinated Bacolod-bound passengers travelling by land, sea or air.

Diaz said National Inter-Agency Task Force (NIATF) Resolution 101 states the S-PaSS or Safe, Swift and Smart Passage, an online travel management system of the Department of Science and Technology used for domestic travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, shall be institutionalized as the one stop-shop application site for travelers in the Philippines.

Through the S-PaSS the vaccination cards of fully vaccinated travelers and negative RT-PCR tests results of those who are not inoculated can be authenticated before they arrive in the province, he said.

Diaz said if persons with fake vaccination cards or RT-PCR results slip through they could endanger residents of Negros Occidental and Bacolod.

Without the S-PaSS it would mean delegating the checking of these documents to airport and airline personnel, he said.

He said the NIATF resolution on the use of the S-PaSS has not been repealed so the Bacolod City government executive order disregarding its use is not right

“I don’t think it is a legal executive order, I think the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) needs to look into it,” he said.

Under NIATF travelers who have to go through different LGUs cannot disregard its protocol, he said, adding that “this is what Bacolod wants to disrespect”

“If you check the application for a Bacolod S-PaSS it is still under restricted classification,” he added.

“If Bacolod City does not want to take care of the S-PaSS approval and throw caution in the air then Negros Occidental is willing to process all their S-PaSS applications without delay,” Diaz said.

He said travelers to Bacolod City can apply for an S-PaSS for Silay City, which is their port of entry.

“It is not wise for us to let our guards down and allow unimpeded travel without protocols,” Diaz said.

He cited Germany that has had another wave of COVID-19 cases and is seriously closing down again. They are returning to work from home along with other European countries, Diaz said.

“I think proclamations or announcement of Em Ang and (Councilor) Cindy Rojas are all misleading…They are trying to create dissatisfaction by misinforming our passengers,” he said.

The confusion is not helping the fight against the spread of COVID, Diaz said.

“We are trying to protect the safety of all passengers and all residents of the province of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City,” he said.

BACOLOD REPLIES

The Bacolod City government is at a loss over what appears to be a power play and under-handed tactic employed by Diaz, who requires the mandatory presentation of an S-Pass by Bacolod-bound passengers traveling via the Bacolod-Silay Airport, its press release late Monday said.

Diaz’s move is a clear disrespect of Executive Order 53 issued by Mayor Evelio Leonardia on November 14 after the National Inter-Agency Task Force downgraded Bacolod’s alert status from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 2 since COVID cases in the LGU had been on a steady decline, Ang said.

Ang, speaking on behalf of Leonardia, dismissed claims made by Diaz that the non-requirement of the S-Pass in EO 53 is illegal.

“Our EO 53 would not have been concurred by Regional IATF chief and Regional Director Jovian Ingeniero if it were not in conformity with the NIATF policy,” Ang said.

EO 53 was issued in conformity and compliance with the Guidelines on the Implementation of Alert Levels System for COVID-19 Response in Pilot Areas as of Oct. 13, 2021 issued by the National IATF, she said.

The requirement of the S-Pass in the interzonal and intrazonal travel is not covered in the guidelines, she pointed out.

She said Diaz apparently forgot the autonomy of Bacolod as a highly-urbanized city. “He treats us like we are a component city of the province and well within his political jurisdiction,” she said.

The key here is respect, Ang said.

Many returning Bacolodnons and Bacolod-bound passengers in Manila cried foul at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after airlines disallowed them from boarding their supposed flight, saying they are just complying with the Capitol policy as ordered by Diaz, the Bacolod press release said.*

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