Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia said he is looking forward to his virtual meeting with Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson on Friday, January 28, to discuss the proposal to harmonize the travel policies of the city government and the Capitol.
On top of the agenda is the city’s proposed lifting of the negative RT-PCR result as a requirement for in-bound vaccinated travelers from Manila, a press release from the Bacolod Public Information Office said Thursday.
Leonardia said the move was initiated to strike a balance between health and sustaining economic activities to minimize the impacts that COVID-19 caused in the last two years.
“We have to learn how to live with the virus and adjust to it accordingly and cautiously” he said.
Leonardia defended his proposal to set aside the RT-PCR result as a requirement for home bound passengers, saying it is for compassionate reason and intended to ensure safe, easy and convenient way for travelers going to Bacolod.
He also dismissed criticisms made by some quarters who said lifting the negative RT-PCR result as a requirement was premature because of the current surge in COVID cases.
The virtual meeting called by Lacson Friday will be joined by Leonardia and the mayors of the towns and cities of Negros Occidental, Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz said.
He said the governor has included all of the local chief executives because they have to come up with a collective decision.
The opinions of the mayors of towns and cities at the borders with Negros Oriental will also have to be taken into consideration, Diaz said.
The city government, by virtue of Executive Order No. 3, also earlier eased the travel protocols between Bacolod and Iloilo, other areas of Western Visayas and Negros Oriental by allowing the entry of fully-vaccinated passengers without the need for RT-PCR results.
Partially vaccinated and non-vaccinated travelers will be required to present only a negative Rapid Antigen Result from their LGU of origin.
The easing to travel policy was mainly because the entire Region 6 and Negros Oriental, which belongs to Region 7, are currently under Alert Level 3, Leonardia said.
“We realized that we are all in the same alert level. When you talk of Panay and Negros or Bacolod and Iloilo we are so inter-conmected, inter-related that if we don’t have (ferry) trips between these two destinations, we will feel the impact on the economy,” the mayor said.
Because, we are trying to improve the economic activities between the two islands, we decided to lift these requirements, he said.
Bacolod had its share of the roller-coaster ride with the pandemic with the city currently on its fourth wave of surge, he said.
“We have very rough times,” he recalled, citing that sometime in September and October last year, the city had 119 cases daily on the average.
The rate went down to 20 in November and only six in December 2021.
In fact, at the start of January 2022 on the first week of the new year, Bacolod had zero cases, he said.
Then all of a sudden, in a few days time, we started to hit double figures and up to three digits. Yesterday, we had 235 (new cases), he added.
By World Health Organization and Department of Health standards, an LGU is considered to have reached herd immunity once 70 percent of its population has already been fully inoculated, the press release said.
Leonardia said based on DOH figures, Bacolod with a target population of 590,000 has already reached the 127 percent mark.
Bacolod already vaccinated over 523,000 residents out 590,000, which translates to 88 percent, he added.
That means we only have to reach 67,000 people to achieve a 100 percent fully-vaccinated population, he said.*