File photo from City IMT

The City Council has introduced a proposed ordinance enforcing a mandatory wearing of “health bands” for arriving non-residents, a measure that its proponents said is designed to strengthen health protocol monitoring and contain the threat of COVID-19.

Lawyer-councilor Herbert S. Dilig, author of proposed ordinance SDO. No. 1108, said the policy should pave the way to easily identify individuals who came from outside the Palawan province.

The legislation was anchored on the reported COVID-19 cases in the city which showed that at least 70 percent, or 111 out of the total 158 confirmed cases, were “imported” cases, or those from returning stranded individuals and essential personnel who came from outside the province.

“In our experience from the start until now, ang lagi na nagiging source ng infection ay ‘yong dumarating galing sa ibang lugar. With this, mayroon kang contact information. This is just much like an arrival form sa mga ibang bansa na magbibigay ng data, purpose ng travel mo, intended period of stay mo and saan ka magstay supposedly sa Puerto or Palawan,” Dilig said.

Councilor Peter Maristela raised a concern that the measure may be interpreted as a form of “discrimination”. There was, however, no formal objection to the resolution when it was approved by the Council.

“Hindi ba ito maging dahilan pa ng discrimination sa ating mga bisita sa Puerto Princesa na kapag ikaw pala ay hindi residente ng Puerto Princesa o Palawan, mayroon kang health band at pupunta ka sa Underground River baka iwasan ka ng bangkero doon. Baka iwasan ka ng mga attendant doon,” Maristela asked.

Dilig countered and said that the accessory’s purpose is merely to identify those who came from outside the province, so the strict physical distancing protocol may be properly enforced.

Section 8 of the proposed ordinance also safeguards the individuals against acts of discrimination, such as denial of service.

“Kung ikaw ay makikita kong may health band ay sisiguraduhin kong ako ay sumusunod sa social distancing. Which is proper lang na dapat nangayayari, but ang point is ma-didiscriminate ka ba? When you speak of discrimination there is only discrimination when I try to deny you services by reason of you being such, sabihin na nating arriving passenger and that is clearly violative of the existing laws,” Dilig said.

Upon their arrival, individuals will fill out a health declaration form, and will also be required to pay P50 for the “health band”.

The violators, or those who will remove said identification when out in the public, may be penalized with a “no contest” fee of P2,000. A one-time penalty ranging between P3,000 to P5,000 may also be imposed.

The proposed ordinance was passed on its third and final reading on Monday.