South Cotabato reopens borders to travelers from within Soccsksargen

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 1 July) – South Cotabato province reopened its borders effective Wednesday to travelers from other parts of Region 12 or Soccsksargen as it continued with the phased restart of economic activities amid the continuing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

South Cotabato. Map courtesy of Google

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said movements in and out of the province will no longer be restricted, especially for passenger buses and public utility vehicles (PUVs) serving various routes within the region.

But he said the entry of people from the 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.

The governor said the easing of intra-regional movement starting July 1 was based on a decision of the Soccsksargen Regional Inter-agency Task Force on COVID-19, which was composed of local chief executives and officials of regional 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 will 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,” he said.

Tamayo urged residents to remain cautious and vigilant, and assist frontline 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 like 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, the governor issued Executive Order No. 36, extending the implementation of the modified general community quarantine in the entire province until July 15.

The measure mainly allowed more businesses and economic WHAT???? to reopen but the prohibitions remained for amusement and gaming, entertainment and tourism-related activities.

Tamayo 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, the governor said they will continue to accept returning locally-stranded individuals (LSI) and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

He said 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.

As of Tuesday night, South Cotabato already recorded 17 confirmed cases for COVID-19, 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. (MindaNews)