Negros Occidental proposes free Covid tests at airport with Bacolod paying share

To harmonize Bacolod and Negros Occidental’s travel policies for home-bound constituents, the provincial government is proposing that RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen tests be provided for free on their arrival at the Bacolod Silay Airport in Silay City.

That was the response of Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz on Tuesday, January 25, to the call of Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia for a virtual meeting with Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson to discuss the need to harmonize their respective travel policies for home-bound travelers.

Leonardia is proposing that inbound passengers from Manila be allowed to take Rapid Antigen tests instead of RT-PCR tests within 24 hours prior to their arrival.

However, who will authenticate that the traveler was non reactive for the antigen tests at the point of origin, Diaz asked.

Diaz said the provincial government is amendable to passengers being tested for COVID-19 on arrival for free provided Bacolod City pays its share for its incoming passengers.

The strict travel protocols being imposed by the Negros Occidental provincial government has basis as seen in the surge of COVID-19 cases lately, which has also affected a lot of health care workers, Diaz said.

There are only a few more days until the end of January and it is possible that travel protocols could be eased in February with a downtrend in cases in the National Capital Region, he said.

Diaz said in the past Leonardia has not attended meetings with the provincial government and those sent to attend do not have the authority to make decisions.

Bacolod City has jurisdiction over its protocols for incoming passengers at the ports in Bacolod City, but the provincial government will continue to require negative RT-PCR tests results from incoming travelers at it borders with Negros Oriental, Diaz said.

During this time when COVID-19 cases are surging, we cannot afford to be reckless and aggravate the situation, Diaz said.

“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.

Leonardia said because of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region, 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.*

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