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The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) dismissed speculations linking the plebiscite to the surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Palawan.

James Jimenez, COMELEC spokesperson, in an online forum on Thursday (May 20), said there was no reasonable link between the electoral process, where almost 300,000 Palawan residents took to polls to decide on the three-way split, considering the surge began after the known 14-day incubation period of the virus.

“We are tracking it, but remember the elections (plebiscite) were on March 13. If you go by the standard 14 days, we are trying to find the connection, 14 days from March 13, parang malayo naman na,” Jimenez said.

Based on Palawan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) data, there were only two active cases in the Palawan province on March 14. By the end of March, only 21 active cases were recorded, mostly from inbound travels of returning individuals and allowed person outside residence (APORs).

Provincial information officer Winston Arzaga, in a separate phone interview, parroting Jimenez’s statement, pointed out that the surge in Palawan originated from Puerto Princesa, which was not even part of the plebiscite.

“Ang surge started in Puerto Princesa. The cases in municipalities increased because people traveled from the city. Majority of towns, the local cases were traceable with travels in Puerto Princesa,” Arzaga said.

On Tuesday, Dr. Tony Leachon, former adviser to the National Inter-Agency Task Force (NIATF), in a video aired on his Facebook account, said the surge may have rooted from the holding of a political gathering, bringing the spike to 77 percent positivity rate, overtaking Metro Manila’s 12 percent.

“Ito ay ayon sa interview, ito ay political gathering din ang pinagsimulan nito [COVID-19 surge]. ‘Yong plebesito na nakaraang ilang lingo, at locally stranded individuals na aka-landing, at hindi rin natin alam kung merong mga foreigners na nandito,” Leachon said.

As of Thursday morning, there were 571 active COVID-19 cases in Puerto Princesa, from a total of 1,662 reported cases since the pandemic last year, with 1,055 recoveries and 36 deaths.

Counted separately, the Palawan towns have a total of 453 active cases, from a total of 1,113 recorded cases, with 645 recoveries and 15 deaths.