South Cotabato province on Wednesday reopened its borders to travelers from other parts of Region 12 (Soccsksargen) as it continued with the phased restart of economic activities amid the continuing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said movements in and out of the province would no longer be restricted, especially for passenger buses and public utility vehicles (PUVs) serving various routes within the region.
Tamayo, however, said the entry of people from neighboring regions remains prohibited and will be closely monitored by authorities.
“Our borders are now open but the regional boundaries will remain closed due to the increasing cases of Covid-19 in other areas,” he said in a press conference.
Tamayo said the easing of intra-regional movement starting July 1 was based on a decision of the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19, which was composed of local chief executives and officials of line agencies in the region.
The region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and North Cotabato, and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Kidapawan, Tacurong, and Cotabato.
As agreed, he said tighter control measures would be implemented in the region’s border highways to prevent the entry of people from areas with sustained local transmission of the disease.
“As of today, we don’t have any reported case of local transmission here in the region and our economic activities are moving smoothly. We’re doing everything to maintain that,” Tamayo said, urging residents to remain cautious and vigilant, and assist front-line workers in monitoring the possible entry of people from the neighboring regions into their communities.
He said everyone should continue to comply with the minimum health protocols, such as the wearing of face masks and practice of safe physical distancing, as well as other restrictions in the wake of the continuing community quarantine.
On Wednesday morning, Tamayo issued Executive Order 36, extending the implementation of the modified general community quarantine in the entire province until July 15.
The measure mainly allowed more businesses and economies to reopen but the prohibitions remained for amusement and gaming, entertainment, and tourism-related activities.
He said dine-in services in food establishments, as well as mass gatherings, including church services, are allowed but should be in 50-percent capacity.
Despite the inclusion of the province as among the “hotspot” areas for Covid-19, Tamayo said they would continue to accept returning locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
All stranded residents have the right to return home provided they comply with the necessary protocols, especially the health screening and mandatory 14-day quarantine, upon arrival, he said.
As of Tuesday night, South Cotabato already recorded 17 confirmed cases, with 13 recoveries.
Fourteen of the cases were from among the more than 3,000 LSIs and OFWs who have so far returned home via air, sea, and land travel. (PNA)