UPDATED: Spike in COVID-19 Cases in Palawan Due to Lifting of Travel Restrictions, Says Local Official

The province declares a state of calamity.

El Nido, Palawan beach
El Nido, Palawan
PHOTO BY Shutterstock

(SPOT.ph) Palawan on Wednesday, June 9 was placed under a state of calamity amid the rise of positive COVID-19 cases in the province, according to their Public Information Office. Yet to be signed by Acting Governor Dennis Socrates, the resolution allows the local government unit to use the Trust Fund and Quick Response Fund for their COVID-19 response. Another signed resolution has also mandated a seven-day facility-based quarantine for all inbound travelers in the province until June 30.

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As of June 8, Palawan's Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office reported 659 total active confirmed cases. Most of these are in Roxas (123), Bataraza (103 cases), and Brooke's Point (94).

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In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB,

Spike in COVID-19 Cases in Palawa Duen to Lifting of Travel Restrictions, Says Local Official

Winston Arzaga claimed that the spike in COVID-19 cases came after the national Inter-Agency Task Force allowed leisure travel from NCR Plus Bubble to other destinations on June 1. He added that the province used to record only from 100 to 200 cases before the relaxing of travel restrictions.

“The first reason is…if you remember, the national IATF loosened restrictions and inbound travelers arrived in Puerto Princesa and other areas without quarantine. After this, cases suddenly rose because there’s no quarantine, so they arrived in Puerto Princesa and then visited other tourist destinations. Our LGUs are tightening their borders. Visiting is not encouraged, especially in El Nido, Coron, and San Vicente… it’s somewhat strict," he said.

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El Nido already suspended entry of leisure travelers from June 5 to 20, except for point-to-point travel bubbles. Huni Lio and Casa Kalaw, which are both in Lio Beach, are still waiting for approval on their application for authorization to operate under the mentioned bubble.

Coron has also imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine and antigen testing for all returning residents and authorized persons outside residence. Only essential travel is allowed from June 9 to 30. Individuals coming in from Culion are also required to present a negative antigen test and travel pass.

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Back on May 18, the Department of Health said that there is no evidence that the removal of the requirement for RT-PCR tests for travelers to Palawan was the reason for the surge in cases in Puerto Princesa City. "Wala tayo nakikita sa ngayong ebidensya na yung pagtaas ng kaso sa ibang lugar ay dahil sa imported cases. Ito'y mga local cases na walang travel history outside of their area," Health Director Alethea De Guzman said in an online press conference.

UPDATE (June 10, 8:45 a.m.): In an online exchange with SPOT.ph, Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said: "Tourists (non-APOR) or non-essential travelers have never been allowed to enter Puerto Princesa. They were supposed to open up to tourists last March but non-essential travel was prohibited from NCR last March. Not all travel is connected to tourism."

In a report by Puerto Princesa's IATF, the city received a total of 1,222 travelers (comprised of APORs, LSIs, and ROFs) from March 5 to 24. Of these, 19 COVID-19 cases are APORs who traveled from Metro Manila.

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