Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) – March 12, 2021 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Provincial governors are appealing to the national government to allow them to subject all travelers to COVID-19 testing.

League of Provinces of the Philippines president and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. yesterday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to consider the LPP’s position as it is the only way to detect asymptomatic carriers.

He said in an interview over Teleradyo that some governors want to conduct tests at points of entry.

He said the tests could be reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), saliva or antigen.

Velasco lamented that provinces have become defenseless and vulnerable after the IATF, in its latest guidelines, removed travel authority from police, as well as medical certificates from travelers.

Epimaco Densing III, undersecretary for operations of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), earlier said clinical and exposure assessment by medical teams at points of entry as well as strict enforcement of minimum health standards are enough to avoid COVID-19 infection.

However, Velasco said the measures are not enough to detect asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

“There’s no way we can detect all those positive because many of them are asymptomatic carriers,” he said in Filipino.

Velasco clarified that what they want is just to be given discretion, adding other local chief executives are free not to impose mandatory testing if they don’t want to.

He cited as an example Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who opted not to impose testing on visitors.

“Discretionary not mandatory for everyone, and it’s up to them to decide on their own,” Velasco said.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) warned foreign nationals yesterday against attempting to submit falsified documents when entering the Philippines.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente reiterated the warning as some foreign nationals might be allowed entry upon presenting exemption documents from Philippine posts abroad.

“Unscrupulous individuals may attempt to falsify such documents. We are warning you not to as we will be able to easily verify the authenticity of such papers,” Morente said.

Morente said the BI requires foreign nationals to present exemption papers when entering the country in compliance with the requirements of the government’s COVID-19 task force.

He said the requirement came after the IATF revised travel restrictions for inbound foreigners.

Before Morente’s warning, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) released a public advisory against scams related to the issuance of entry exemption documents for foreigners. – Robertzon Ramirez