photo from Wikipedia

Former Palawan governor and Games and Amusement Board (GAB) chair Abraham “Baham” Mitra on Saturday addressed the commentary spreading mainly in social media that he was the cause of the current surge of COVID-19 cases in the city owing to his participation in the Balayong Fun Ride and Acacia Tunnel Lighting held by the city government in early March.

Speaking during his regular Saturday program “Gabay sa Kinabukasan” and aired live on FB, Mitra, who had recently recovered from COVID-19, said he did not violate any protocol when he participated in the Balayong Fun Ride and Acacia Tunnel Lighting, an event that is being blamed by netizens for the sudden rise in local COVID-19 cases in Puerto Princesa.

He explained that he followed testing protocols in his various travels before flying in from Manila on March 1 and that all of his tests yielded negative results. He added that as an “allowed person outside residence” (APOR),  the national IATF guidelines no longer required him to undergo quarantine upon arrival, but he did so voluntarily for three days.

“February 25, nagpa test before going to Gen San, then to Davao. March 1 nagpa-test ulit sa Manila before taking the plane – both negative. Hindi naman tayo lumabas ng bahay pagdating ng Puerto Princesa. After a few days saka lang tayo lumabas. Pero walang nalabag na protocol doon kasi sinabi na ng IATF na ang APOR ay hindi na kailangang mag-quarantine. Pero tayo nag-quarantine pa [ng] three days,” he said.

Mitra also said he had been assured by city health officials that the surge did not emanate from the event.

“Gusto ko lang balikan ang sinabi ni CIO Richard Ligad at kay Dr. Dean Palanca na walang relasyon sa Acacia Tunnel ang pagdami ng mga positive sa Puerto Princesa City at sa mga munisipyo. Mismong si Dr. Eunice [Herrera], nagsabi na maraming mga nag-come forward nagpa-test na nandoon sa Acacia Tunnel, at puro negative,” he said.

City health officials and the city Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) have yet to explain the origin of the surge that began following the event that was attended by thousands of city residents, mostly bike enthusiasts including Mitra, even as its organizers had admitted they did not anticipate the huge turnout of the crowd.

However, in the first week of March, the city government suspended travel from Manila after 19 cases were linked to two unidentified APORS who were both “government employees” who arrived on March 3.

Executive Order 21 issued by Mayor Lucilo Bayron reimposing the air travel ban noted that of the 1,122 travelers from Manila during most of March were APORS and that majority of its active cases at that time were APORS.

Mitra dismissed criticisms linking him to the current surge as politically-motivated, while at the same time denying he has plans of running againt for a public office. He currently chairs the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) as an appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte.

He said that his health has yet to fully recover and this is one of his reasons why he isn’t considering going back to local politics.

“Meron pong shortness of breath minsan. Kaya sa ngayon kung kukumustahin ninyo ako, ang sagot ko ay ‘recovering’. Delikado pa rin kami for the next six months,” he said

“Isa rin ito sa mga rason kaya hindi tayo naghahanda para tumakbo. Kung puwede lang yung ating mga detractors, siguro nakikita ninyo ang mga surveys. Baka mamaya lalo pang tumaas ang survey,” he added.