The entire province of Palawan, including Puerto Princesa City, will no longer be under “community quarantine” starting May 16, according to the pronouncement issued Tuesday by Malacanang.

Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced following an introductory message by President Rodrigo Duterte that Palawan, along with the rest of the MIMAROPA region, have been classified as “low risk” provinces, allowing for the easing of some quarantine restrictions while maintaining basic health safety protocols.

The changes in the quarantine classification throughout the country starting May 16 was contained in the Resolution #35 of the IATF and approved Monday night by President Duterte.

The provincial government of Palawan and the City government, however, have yet to issue specific policies and guidelines on how the province will adjust from the current “community quarantine” restrictions. Officials, however, reminded the general public that strict measures intended to prevent the entry and spread of coronavirus will remain in place.

Strict health measures retained

“Hindi ito Liberation Day,” provincial information officer Winston Arzaga told Palawan News.

“Although babalik na sa dati ang lahat tulad ng transportation, we have to be reminded na hindi nawawala ang threat kaya we will still implement strict health standards,” he added.

He said the provincial government will still wait for guidance from IATF on how it will ease the overall restrictions that have been in place since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).

He said however that the ban on inter-municipal travel will already be lifted.

“Ang public transportation ay pwede na bumiyahe, intermunicipal travel ay pwede. However, hihintayin pa natin ang guidelines from DOTr or LTFRB kung ano ang gagawin,” he said

“May social distancing pa rin kaya papaano ang pamasahe ng mga pasahero,” he added.

City border controls still in place

A senior city official told Palawan News the current border controls strictly being observed by the city government under the GCQ “would stay at a certain level.”

The city government has since closed off its airport and sea ports from domestic carriers and has regulated the entry of people from outside the city.

Councilor Victor Oliveros, majority floor leader of the City Council, in a phone interview said that the existing border control measures pushed by the local legislative body would “stay at a certain level”.

“We are not ready to open our borders, like for example our airport for commercial [flights], sea ports, and other points of entry,” Oliveros told Palawan News.

He said their actions will remain to be guided by strict health safeguards.

“While we are enjoying our freedom in the inner part of our city, we should protect our borders. Border is what were supposed to take care and make sure that everyone who comes in is clean and out of infection. Otherwise, were giving the opportunity for the virus to come in. Baka magkaroon ng surge ng tao dito bigla,” Oliveros said.

Oliveros said strict measures will remain in place until a vacine become available.

“Unless theres a vaccine for this virus, hindi tayo matatahimik at lagi tayong may fear of infection,” Oliveros added.

Lt. Col. Alonso Tabi Jr., deputy director for operations of the City Philippine National Police (City PNP), in an earlier statement said that four border checkpoints were designated on the onset of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) placed at Barangay Inagawan (south), Napsan (southwest), Langogan (north), and Macarascas (northwest).

Arzaga said the provincial government will continue pursuing initiatives to combat the virus, including mass testing and promoting the practice of social distancing.

“Kapag sinabing strict health standards ay nandyan pa rin ang social distancing, we have to reduce transmission, and of course we have to remain healthy, our immune system,” he added.

Arzaga said that mass testing will be implemented soon after the establishment of the four testing centers in Palawan located in Barangay Irawan in Puerto Princesa City; El Nido; Brooke’s Point; and Calamian Group of Islands.

“Your provincial government is looking at this side, the governor has invested heavy efforts in health infrastructure. Ang threat ay hindi mawawala kaya, mangyayari ang mass testing sa atin. All facilities and isolation areas are in place na ‘yan kung sakaling may resurgence na hindi naman natin hinihingi. When it comes to containment capability ay kaya ng pamahalaang panlalawigan,” Arzaga said.

(With reports from Romar Miranda and Aira Genesa Magdayao)