South Cotabato tightens COVID checkpoints amid reports of illegal entry

P/Col Jemuel F Siason, Officer-In-Charge of South Cotabato PPO inspects a checkpoint in Barangay Palian, Tupi in South Cotabato on Saturday, 21 March 2020, as part of the implementation of Executive Order (E.O) 18 signed by Governor Reynaldo S. Tamayo, jr. which placed the entire province of South Cotabato under Enhance Community Quarantine and calibrated lockdown. Photo courtesy of the FB page of PRO12 South Cotabato 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 April) – Police personnel in South Cotabato have tightened their monitoring of vehicles entering the province’s borders to prevent the entry of individuals from areas with confirmed cases of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Lt. Renjun Bagaman, spokesperson of the South Cotabato Police Provincial Office, said they received reports that a number of residents who were stranded in the neighboring regions have managed to sneak into the province without going through proper quarantine protocols.

He said some of them were reportedly “inserted” in the cargo of delivery vehicles, among them trucks transporting bread supplies.

Bagaman warned stranded residents to refrain from taking such illegal route as they will be arrested and investigated outright if caught at the border checkpoints.

“This is a defiance of the quarantine policies of the province and provisions of RA 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act),” he said in a briefing.

He cited the executive orders that had been issued by South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., among them the prohibition on the entry of returning residents without undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Hannah Ebeo, health education and promotions officer of the Integrated Provincial Health Office, confirmed that they monitored the entry of people who were able to slip past the checkpoints.

She said these cases were reported by local health care workers and members of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams or BHERTs.

Ebeo said the BHERTs have been regularly conducting house-to-house visits to check on such cases but were having difficulty tracing the movement of the concerned individuals as they usually don’t report their status voluntarily.

“We really need to properly trace these individuals as they could have come from areas with sustained local transmission of COVID-19,” she said.

Bagaman advised persons who already managed to enter the province through such modus to immediately submit themselves to health authorities.

He said local health workers may seek assistance from police units for “hostile subjects” who will refuse to undergo quarantine. (MindaNews)