Palace to LGUs: COVID-19 testing not mandatory

Harry Roque
IATF spokesman and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said local government units (LGUs) should not require private workers to undergo rapid COVID testing as a precondition for their return to work.

MALACANANG on Thursday strongly called out local government leaders and barangay officials to stay within the guidelines issued by the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases by ensuring smooth return of private workers in authorized business outlets and their free access to areas to serve their customers.

IATF spokesman and presidential spokesman Harry Roque said local government units (LGUs) should not require private workers to undergo rapid COVID testing as a precondition for their return to work.

Roque also said authorized personnel and representatives of such businesses must not be given a hard-time accessing areas in the barangay levels to serve their customers.

He stressed LGUs which have issued executive orders imposing rapid testing as pre-condition were grossly wrong in imposing such requirement.

“Hindi tama na mag-require ang LGUs ng COVID testing. It’s not mandated. If ever, it must be done voluntarily,” he told a virtual presscon held in Malacanang Thursday.

He explained COVID testing for returning workers is not mandatory under the IATF guidelines unless it is the companies or employers themselves who will require it and shoulder the cost.

“Kung employers ang magbabayad, hindi sila pinipigilan. Hindi pwede mag-require ng COVID test para makabalik sa work. Kinakausap na ng DILG ang LGUs, sinasabi sa kanila na hindi kayo dapat mag-require ng ganyan unless voluntary,” Roque stressed.

Roque likewise said barangays must open up their areas to authorized personnel of business establishments allowed by the IATF to be able to serve their customers and conduct their business.

He said there should be no restrictions imposed in the barangay level on authorized business establishments and their representatives.

“Ang mga nagta-trabaho sa mga authorized businesses to open under ECQ, GCQ or MECQ man yan -  at yung mga APOR nila, dapat huwag silang bawalan sa barangay. Kung hindi sila magtatrabaho (like yung nasa food business) sino magpapakain sa atin? So dapat payagan sila,” Roque stressed.

Several LGUs have issued executive orders like Marikina, Paranaque and some parts in Cebu province requiring business establishments to have all returning employees undergo Rapid testing as a precondition before operating contrary to the IATF and DTI-DOLE guidelines.

Barangays in some parts of Metro Manila have also implemented their own restrictions, which are not provided in the IATF Omnibus Guidelines.

Under the IATF Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines issued on May 15, 2020,  most manufacturing, distribution and delivery services have been given the go signal to resume in order to help the economy and also continue with the livelihood of workers.

But there have been reports from the said industries that while allowed by the IATF, their personnel or employees are prevented or restricted by barangay officials to enter their localities to service customers therein such as sari-sari stores, mini-groceries and households.