Regional health and presidential alter ego officials have agreed Bohol should loosen protocols to balance safety and economy.

But the mayors and local health officers still fear its serious consequences foremostly and not just to public health.

A thorough harmonizing of national, regional and local policies and protocols is expected to be the order in the coming days.

Active COVID-19 cases in the province have again risen as in the third quarter last year, with highly-populated Dauis and Ubay now having the most count.

Managing an unwanted extent of condition can be also hard to the resources of the local government units (LGUs) this new budget calendar after spending a lot for pandemic responses last year.

For his part, Gov. Arthur Yap would like to be sure that whatever decison the local chief executives will make has to be based on science and realistic.

Department of Health (DOH) Reg’l. Dir. Jaime Bernadas and chief pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche and Asec. Anthony Gerard Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) explained lesser-stringent protocols during the mayors’ meeting and briefing with the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) and city/municipal health officers ((C/MHOs) on Friday.

They physically attended the important confererence while the governor had to join via Zoom.

During the new Gallares hospital groundbreaking in Cortes the other week, Yap had himself asked the DOH officials to come to Bohol to explain to the mayors the recent higher policies for LGUs to be aptly guided and protocols harmonized.

Loreche presented a thorough report on the profile of the coronavirus, giving the mayors and MHOs a wider understanding of how the virus works.

The regional DOH expert explained how local health protocols can be adjusted and reconciled with the national, also giving chances to more Boholanos to come home and spend time with their loved ones.

With the new national IATF guidelines set, one, particularly an APOR, can have no PCR test and quarantine as long as travel is from a province to another which are both under the modified general community quarantine ((MGCQ).

But most mayors, if not all, expressed strong resistance to the suggestions brought out by the DOH.

Uncompromising in the guidelines they have set in their LGUs, the mayors are inclined to keeping their protocols.

They said their municipalities do not have the same capability as the others.

DOCTORS FOR TEST, QUARANTINE TO STAY

Backed by their MHOs, local doctors also believed the 14-day quarantine and negative PCR test result should stay as main, crucial requirements from anyone who wants to come home to Bohol.

Dr. Ellan Lyl Salada, Bohol’s only infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jeff Ong, president of the Bohol Medical Society, and Dr. Kazan Baluyot, head of the local Philippine College of Physicians, joined the meeting also via Zoom.

The MHOs said it would compromise their localities to allow the entry of authorized persons outside residence (APORs) and their residents to come home without being quarantined.

Some even pointed out their hospitals healthcare system would be overwhelmed in case of a surge in COVID cases.

BOHOL SYSTEM LAUDED, BUT…

Gonzales lauded the effort of the province containing the virus by its stringent protocols to keep the cases to its lest or minimum.

“Nindot and inyong patakaran para i-contain ang COVID. Nindot ang

inyong contact tracing, ang inyong isolation strategy, ang inyong containment strategy,” he praised.

But the deputy presidential assistant was also clear in “pleading” to balance health and economy.

“It has to be balanced. It has to be both. It cannot be one or the other,” Gonzales said.

He urged everyone to continue the containment, but also not be afraid to open up the economy of the province.

The OPAV official cited that “in Cebu, 80% of the businesses are now fully operational and yet there are 2000 active cases.”

As of this writing, Bohol recorded 120 active cases after registering over 200 cases at one point last year.

Gonzales encouraged the mayors to open up Bohol to get the local economy up and running.

“The virus will always be there, we just have to learn to live with COVID,” he said while again challenging everyone to weigh health with economy.

BETTER PREPARATION

While the DOH opinion on protocols is considered, the governor believed Bohol should have a better emergency operation preparation in addition to the system already in place.

He ordered a marathon consultation among the mayors, local health officers, DOH representatives and other crucial sectors to harmonize the national IATF and local protocols.

OPEN UP WITH RULE HARMONY

Yap expressed full support in opening up the borders and economy as he agreed on

on harmonizing local and national rules.

This can make Bohol more conducive to tourists, businessmen and returning residents without endangering the local community while the viral threat stays.

The governor hoped to come up with adjustments that will make sense to everybody so that no one will be left behind.

The rules should be sensible and nobody would say that the local government is making life difficult.

“We have to be fair to the tourists, we have to be fair to the returning OFWs, to the LSIs, and to the APORs”, Yap said.

He reiterated his want to make sure that any next step the local executives will take in agreement has to have scientific basis and be realistic.

CAUTIOUS WILL

As long as there is balance, even if there are infections, Bohol has to let people come in, the governor said.

He asked: “What are we going to do to address the living and healthy? What are we going to do for our brothers and sisters who want to come home for two weeks to spend time with their families and must go back to work?”

“They need to come to rest,” said Yap who then asked the MHOs how to take care of them to help balance safety and economy.

The Capitol official lauded all for doing everything they could in keeping the province safe.

But he again said a lot of Boholanos outside the province need to come home to their families also.

“They cannot take all the time when you put them in quarantine facilities all because we are afraid. We cannot be afraid. We have to decide what we can do for them. We have to balance everything,” the governor said.

Yap reassured he will consult the mayors and their health officers before issuing an executive order.

The mayors’ meeting with the DOH and OPAV officials was also joined by MGen. Melquiades Feliciano, National Task Force chief implementer for the Visayas, Vice Gov. Rene Relampagos, Provincial Administrator Kathyrin Fe Pioquinto, Provincial Planning and Development Officer John Titus Vistal, DILG-Bohol Dir. Jerome Gonzales, PNP provincial commander Col. Joselito Clarito and BIATF spokesperson Dr. Cesar Tomas Lopez. (Ven rebo Arigo)