Palawan Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez stressed on Wednesday that the provincial government will continue to apply “minimum health standards” despite the reclassification of the province as “low risk” to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alvarez made the pronouncement prior to a statement issued by Malacanang withdrawing the removal of quarantine restrictions on the province and placing the so-called low risk under a new category, Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ).
During the Pakimanan ta si Gob program, Governor Alvarez said that minimum health standards will still be observed in the province while gradually getting back to normal starting May 16.
“Babalik sa lahat such as public construction basta may mask, ready ang long sleeves, may distancing so on and so forth. ‘Yan ang tinatawag natin na minimum health standards,” he said.
Alvarez also said that Palawan should remain prepared in possible resurgence of the virus while there is no vaccine for the virus yet.
“Although alam naman natin na walang vaccine at paghandaan natin na walang outbreak or second wave dito in the next two years,” Alvarez said.
“Marami tayong rapid test kits but we still have to confirm,” he added.
Assistance after GCQ
Once general community quarantine (GCQ) is lifted, he said that Palaweños may expect assistance from the government including Kusina sa Barangay.
Alvarez said that provincial government has enough budget and rice supply to distribute.
“Although wala ng GCQ, normal ang status natin hindi naman tayo pwede agad-agad na tulad ng pagkakaroon ng flight. Ang ayuda ay walang tigil, modesty aside but this office has always cash balance of P5 billion, hindi ko ginagastos yan,” he said.
“Marami tayong pera and I am hoping na by June ay babalik na sa normal, maraming tumutulong sa atin may 45,000 sa NFA at 56,000 bags na pwede bilhin,” Alvarez added.
In addition, Alvarez also assured that tight security protocols will remain in all entry points in Palawan particularly those coming from Malaysia.
“Magmula nong krisis ay nandyan ang ating emergency operation center, silang lahat ay mandated to help. Kapag mayron tayong immediate response na kailangan katulad ng Mangingisda na galing Mindoro ay Coast Guard ang nag-assist nito. As we speak now ay mayroon tayong mga sundalo doon sa back door exit,” he said.
Alvarez also predicted that the tourism sector will suffer a major setback as he indicated plans to invite big business players to bail out the locals.
He said that he is willing to ask help from the investors outside the province to help the tourism industry after the GCQ.
“’Yong ating projections for 1 million tourism, hindi na babalik yun dahil nag interfere si Mr. Covid. To survive, wala silang business plan karamihan like El Nido. For the tourism industry to survive, kailangan i-anticipate ‘yong mga unseen like mr covid. The assistance I can do is call out investors from Metro Manila, mahaba ang pisi para ma maintain ang kanilang mga facilities,” Alvarez said.
He also cited agriculture as the most important foundation for the tourism industry in Palawan and enhance the existing industry.
“What I want is to be a highly agricultural depend but Palawan has limited agricultural area but we have to enhance the existing industry such as fishing, mining and tourism. Some of them will be close, although we are promoting local tourism ay hindi pa rin sapat ‘yon sa Palawan tourism industry but if we are high agriculture dependent ay magandang pundasyon ‘yon para sa turismo, babalik lahat. Medyo magkakaroon lang ng delay lahat dahil nga kay COVID-19,” he said.
Alvarez and Puerto Princesa City Mayor Bayron were scheduled to meet to discuss synchronized plans on the lifting of GCQ for the entire province.
“With Mayor Bayron meeting this afternoon, I suggest that somehow we have to relax our economy. We are an island economy, we have to be self-sufficient. So, hopefully, we can resolve things this afternoon for the next 30 days para marelax na yung ating mga tao sa munisipyo, ‘yong mga kababayan natin na gusto nang bumalik sa kanilang pamamaraan para mabuhay,” he said.
Alvarez said that they are expecting that Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the Department of Health will soon certify Ospital ng Palawan to be a testing center in the province.
He said that testing and contact tracing should be done even after the GCQ.
“We will see to it maganda ang pag-inspection ng RITM at DOH dito sa Ospital ng Palawan para magkaroon na agad tayo ng working test center. Marami tayong rapid tester but still we have to confirm. Like what happened in Tanabag, I believe it’s false positive, kasi ‘yong pamilya did not test positive. More or less namatay ‘yon sa tuberculosis. Katulad ng sinasabi ko testing and contact tracing are the things have to be done,” Alvarez said.