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World’s 1st airport test lab opens in Mactan

Rico Osmeña



World’s first Passengers at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport await their turn to be swab-tested for the coronavirus disease, to be processed in the airport’s molecular laboratory — the first in the country and in the world. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF DOTR

Considered to be the first in the Philippines and in the world, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), together with the GMR-MEGAWIDE Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC), launched on Saturday a dedicated molecular laboratory for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) detection in the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).

MCIAA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Atty. Steve Dicdican said this was borne out of the prerequisite for the resumption of international travel with the de-prioritization of profit since the airport will not profit a single cent from its operations.

“It should be noted that the airport will not profit a single cent from the laboratory because we envisioned this to be our contribution to the government’s effort to bring home our stranded kababayans at minimal cost to them and the government and jumpstarting our economy,” Dicdican said in a statement.

The project was also done in line with Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade’s directive for airports to each have a dedicated molecular laboratory.

Dicdican added the group immediately took up to the task and embarked on the ambitious project of putting up the fastest-built and accredited molecular laboratory, which has the capacity to do mass testing and generate results in the quickest possible time.

The 400-square meter laboratory, which is designed to process 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day, can yield test results after 24 hours — the shortest time in the country to release swab test results.

It holds a Biosafety Level 2 certification from the Department of Health (DoH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which allows it to work with agents associated with human diseases that pose a moderate health hazard.

Meanwhile, GMR-MEGAWIDE, which operates the MCIA, has finalized its arrival protocols for international passengers who will need to undergo swab testing and must have confirmed hotel accommodations in Cebu for a specific number of days while waiting for their test results.

The cost of PCR swab tests for returning Filipinos who are not overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and foreign nationals is P4,900, which is to be shouldered by the passenger. The testing cost for land-based OFW and seafarers is P4,400, which shall be shouldered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Association.

Upon arrival, passengers will need to present their Travel Registration Number after registering at the online MCIA Passenger Arrival Registration Form, then proceed to the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) to undergo thermal scanning and submit the Health Declaration Form. Following clearance from Immigration, they will need to proceed to the Arrival Reclaim Hall for PCR swab test wherein an orange band/sticker will be given to indicate completion.

While claiming baggage, they will go to the waiting area and wait for a representative from respective agencies for Customs clearance before leaving the airport. PCR swab test results will be released by the BoQ after 24 to 48 hours.

For negative PCR test results, the passenger will receive an email from the BoQ wherein the local government unit may bring the passenger to their residence in Cebu, may be allowed to go home via private vehicle, or take onward flights.

For positive results, the BoQ will be directly in touch with the passenger for specific instructions wherein the passenger must comply with mandated health, safety and treatment protocols of the DoH and BoQ.



Boracay reopens

We are pleased that the Boracay IATF, Aklan and Malay have agreed to put health and safety as top priorities as we carefully and safely welcome guests to the island.

Sundy Locus



Guests entering world-famous Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan, starting Thursday are mandated to have Boracay Tourist QR (quick response) codes upon arrival in airports and seaports, entry in all establishments, including hotels and restaurants, and participation in water activities.

The QR code system will allow members of health emergency responders to immediately track and trace possible high-risk contacts of guests who will experience COVID-19 related symptoms.

Quick response hotline 152 was also established to easily allow responders to assist guests and employees that will need medical attention.

On Tuesday, the Aklan Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) visited Godofredo P. Ramos Airport (Caticlan) Airport for final assessment prior to the reopening for domestic tourists only.

The assessment included review of protocols on receiving guests while ensuring social distance, queuing system, temperature and online health declaration card scanning and isolation rooms for symptomatic guests.

A health declaration card, available online, must be filled up and submitted by guests.

Tourists from areas under general community quarantine, including Metro Manila, will be allowed on the island as long as they are negative from the coronavirus and have booked accommodations.

Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, in a televised briefing on Wednesday, said the Department of Tourism (DoT) forecasts reopening to international guests by the second half of 2021.

DoT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Boracay’s reopening signals a gathering momentum for domestic tourism all over the country.

“We are pleased that the Boracay IATF, Aklan and Malay have agreed to put health and safety as top priorities as we carefully and safely welcome guests to the island,” she said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque likewise welcomed the reopening but cautioned that the country is not safe from the virus yet.

“It means we need to balance the reality that workers of the tourism sector must go back to work,” he said.

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San Juanico Bridge lighting project sees completion this year

We have given our contractor an order to resume work. We are looking at doing a test run this October.

Elmer Recuerdo



ENGINEERS work on the LED lighting project on the San Juanico Bridge. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF REP. ANN TAN FACEBOOK

TACLOBAN CITY — After months of delays, the P80-million San Juanico Bridge Aesthetic Lighting Project is expected to be completed before the year ends.

Department of Tourism regional director Karina Rosa Tiopes said works resumed in August after coronavirus restrictions stopped construction in March.

“We have given our contractor an order to resume work. We are looking at doing a test run this October,” she said.

The project, approved by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) Board in 12 January 2018, was initially programmed for completion on 8 November 2018 in time for the fifth anniversary of the supertyphoon Yolanda devastation.

However, it was moved to December 2019 as it needed further studies on technical specifications. A groundbreaking of the project was scheduled for 26 July 2019.

In January 2019, the project implementer announced that the target operation has been moved to April 2020 due to the delay in the transport of materials. A ceremonial energization and turnover of power sub-station for the project was done on 7 February.

But just as work was finally running smoothly, lockdowns and border restrictions were implemented due to the coronavirus disease.

The project, once completed, will feature nighttime lights and even timed lighting effects on special occasions. The design is patterned after some of the iconic bridges in the world.

“San Juanico Bridge will be the first bridge in the country to have a lights and sounds show,” Tiopes said, adding that they expect to lure foreign and local tourists to Eastern Visayas.

TIEZA also approved to fund the construction of a boardwalk on the Samar side of the San Juanico channel which will be included in their budget next year.

San Juanico Bridge was built in August 1969 over the San Juanico Strait to connect Samar and Leyte islands. The bridge, which spans 2.162 kilometers, was completed in December 1972.

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40 CdO cops quarantined




At least 40 policemen in the Cogon Community Precinct in Cagayan de Oro (CdO) City are in isolation facilities for mandatory quarantine after two of their colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

The Misamis Oriental provincial police command said personnel from the CdO mobile unit will temporarily fill in their posts.

The city health office has disinfected the precinct prior to the arrival of the replacement team.

The community precinct has under its jurisdiction the Cogon public market and a big commercial complex.

As of Tuesday, the city has 27 new confirmed cases, including six locally stranded individuals and returning overseas Filipinos, and a total of 728 cases and 30 deaths.

Arrivals in CdO are usually through the Laguindingan Airport or Macabalan port.

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P2.7M illegal drugs seized

Jonas Reyes



Illegal drugs worth P2.7 million were seized while 128 violators were apprehended by the Angeles City Police Office (ACPO) after conducting simultaneous operations recently.

ACPO chief Col. Joyce Patrick Sangalang said they had 62 operations from 17 to 27 September that led to the apprehension of suspected drug traders, including a member of the notorious robbery and drugs gang Ramos Group.

Confiscated were 235 sachets of shabu with an aggregate weight of 403.681 grams and street value of P2,743,394.80; four sachets of marijuana worth P14,400; and three motorcycles.

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Calbayog cases rise

Elmer Recuerdo



CALBAYOG CITY — Cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are on the rise here, with 51 infections recorded Tuesday or more than half of the new cases in Eastern Visayas.

City Information Officer Ronald Ricafort said the 51 new cases are among the 245 samples submitted to Eastern Visayas Regional COVID-19 Testing Center (EVRCTC). It was the city’s highest daily number so far.

The new cases included four healthcare workers from Calbayog District Hospital, 47 close contacts of patients and two new cases whose sources of infection are still unknown.

“This sudden surge of local cases is already alarming. People have to consciously wear masks all the time especially if they are going out of the house even just in the neighborhood,” he said. “You may not know that your next-door neighbor is already COVID positive.”

The city health office said cases rose by over 150 percent over the last two weeks — from 90 cases on 16 September to 230 on 29 September.

The increase in Calbayog City came at a time when other cities in the region are on downward trends.

The Department of Health regional office reported 95 new cases, bringing to 4,684 the total cases in Eastern Visayas with 3,941 recoveries and 42 deaths.

The 95 new cases were recorded from 1,127 laboratory samples tested in EVRCTC and Divine Word Hospital Virology Laboratory.

The region’s new infections included eight cases each from Tacloban and Catbalogan City while Jiabong had 10.

In Tacloban, the city government welcomed the general community quarantine (GCQ) status imposed by the national Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases for October despite the decrease in positive cases in recent weeks.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez said the GCQ status is dependent on their neighboring provinces, Tacloban being the regional center of Eastern Visayas.

“We are in a GCQ status because, unlike other regions where medical facilities are scattered all over the place, here in Eastern Visayas they are all in Tacloban,” he said.

As of 29 September, Tacloban only has 120 active cases, way below the 339 recorded three weeks ago. The city has a total of 754 cases with 623 recoveries and 11 deaths.

Also under GCQ until 31 October are National Capital Region, Batangas, Bacolod City, Iligan City and Iloilo City. The rest of Eastern Visayas is on the more relaxed modified GCQ.

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Goma locks down hospital

Until we are done with the investigation and they have served a limited quarantine time, that is the only time that they will be allowed to go out.

Elmer Recuerdo



THREE COVID-19 cases involving health workers forced Mayor Richard Gomez to temporarily lock down the Ormoc District Hospital for at least two weeks. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ORMOC LFU

Three healthcare workers who tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) forced Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez to lock down the Ormoc District Hospital (ODH) and all personnel inside.

The closure began Tuesday and will initially last for 14 days, depending on the outcome of the investigation and the recommendation of health experts.

Everybody inside ODH are prohibited from going out. Policemen are deployed around the perimeter to enforce the lockdown.

As of press time, there was no exact number of the persons inside but Gomez said among them are doctors, nurses and family members who are attending to their patients.

The city government will provide food while designated service personnel can also buy essentials for them.

“Until we are done with the investigation and they have served a limited quarantine time, that is the only time that they will be allowed to go out,” he said.

Gomez said the infection started with a healthcare worker who lives outside the city and attended a social gathering. The patient was already experiencing symptoms when she entered the border but did not declare it.

When the healthworker submitted to a swab test, the result turned out positive. At least 11 close contacts have been identified, two of them testing positive, too.

Gomez said there is a possibility that more people inside the hospital may have been infected.

The mayor also found that ODH has no containment area where employees who are experiencing symptoms can be isolated.

“There should be a containment area for the doctors and the medical staff inside the hospital so that when somebody gets infected we do not have to close the operation of the whole hospital,” he said.

ODH, a level two hospital, is the main referral facility in the western side of Leyte province. It has a bed capacity of over 100 and offers health services such as general medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery and orthopedics.

It caters to seven municipalities around Ormoc City — Merida, Isabel, Kananga, Capoocan, Matag-ob, Albuera and Camotes Island.

For the entire October, Ormoc residents are still required to present quarantine passes when going out, except in extreme medical and emergency cases. Non-residents must submit border passes. Persons 21 years old and below, 60 years and above and immunocompromised cannot go out yet.

Meanwhile, Ormoc cemeteries will be closed from 29 October to 5 November, like what several other local government units have imposed to discourage their constituents to visit their departed loved ones all at the same time.

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Mental breakdown

The PMA is doing its very best to look into every single detail leading to the incident and to provide the necessary solutions to ensure that no similar case will happen in the future.

Aldwin Quitasol



PHILIPPINE Military Academy cadets, just like other students, must deal with physical and mental stress before they become soldiers. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PMA

BAGUIO CITY — Mental issues may have something to do with Tuesday’s shooting incident at the Philippine Military Academy Academy (PMA) that resulted in the death of an enlisted personnel.

PMA spokesperson Cheryl Tindog acknowledged that their soldiers, like any other person, may be silently struggling with mental health issues.

“Hence, the Academy, more than ever, is committed to attend to the mental health not only of our cadets, but more so of every military personnel,” she said.

“In coordination with other stakeholders, the Academy is and will continue to be providing psycho-social intervention to identify and help its personnel who may have mental health problems, similar to what has been done for our cadets. This is the PMA’s commitment to its personnel in order for them to remain psychologically fit for any mission given them.”

At about 4:50 p.m. on Tuesday, an Air Force Airman Second Class identified as Christopher Lim went “amuck and fired indiscriminately in their barracks” at the PMA grounds in Fort Gregorio del Pilar.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Joefry Torqueza was killed while Senior Sgt. Vivencio Raton also sustained gunshot wounds but managed to grab the M-16 rife and hit Lim.

Raton and Lim were brought to the PMA Hospital and later transferred to Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.

“The Academy extends its condolences to the family of Sgt. Torqueza and will likewise extend all the necessary support to the two others to ensure that they will surpass such difficult time,” Tindog said. “The Academy is coordinating with its police counterpart for the impartial investigation and fast resolution of the case.”

The PMA said that while the incident is an isolated case, it will be “doing its very best to look into every single detail leading to the incident and to provide the necessary solutions to ensure that no similar case will happen in the future.”

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Cusi condemns NPA attack on Mindoro cops




PNP MIMAROPA regional director Gen. Pascual Muñoz Jr. checks on one of three wounded cops of the 403rd B Mobile Force Company in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PNP MIMAROPA

Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi “strongly condemned” the ambush on three policemen in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro on Monday.

The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) claimed responsibility for the attack that wounded three cops when their mobile unit was fired at and subsequently burnt along the national highway in Barangay Sta. Teresita.

The policemen of the 403rd B Regional Mobile Force Battalion of the Philippine National Police (PNP) MIMAROPA ((Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan) were checking on their vicinity at about 11:35 a.m. when the incident happened.

The wounded PNP personnel were identified as Corporals Vincent Dominguez and Michael Librea and Patrolman Norman Alvaro. Together with their unharmed companions, civilian rescuers took them to Roxas District Hospital.

Cusi said the incident showed who the CPP-NPA members really are: Terrorists with no respect for human lives.

“I strongly condemn the ambush perpetrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army against our Philippine National Police personnel,” Cusi, also the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for MIMAROPA, said.

“The latest action from the CPP-NPA only proves that the group is not serious about attaining genuine peace and development. Their actions continue to reveal their terroristic activities and intentions.”

The NPA said that attack was in retaliation for the police and military forces’ attack in Mindoro that killed their colleagues on 31 May.
“I call on everyone to rally behind our men and women who risk their lives to ensure that our communities can sleep soundly and safely,” Cusi added.

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Increased allowance for Palawan PWD




Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in Puerto Princesa City will receive higher quarterly allowances from the city government beginning this year.

Vice Mayor Maria Nancy Socrates said the Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) has appropriated the budget for 6,110 PWD, up from 5,080.

Socrates said the increased allowance — P1,500 from the current P1,200 — will be applied on the third quarter this year.

“It is imperative that the city government appropriates an additional budget for this purpose, especially with the 17-percent increase in PWD in less than a year,” she said.

Socrates said the increase in the number came from senior citizens, who developed disabilities, and cancer patients and survivors who can be considered PWD pursuant to Republic Act 11215, or National Cancer Control Act.

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