MANILA - Some 28 personnel of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Region 6 have been relieved, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Thursday, after attending a supposed conference that turned out to be a "despedida" party on Boracay Island in breach of quarantine protocols.
This followed the Department of Tourism's disclosure Wednesday that the BFP personnel had attended a party on the island last week despite restrictions on mass gathering. One of them was later diagnosed with COVID-19.
“They were just relieved of their current positions. They are placed in floating status while undergoing investigation,” Año said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.
The region's fire chief was earlier relieved over the incident.
Año said Fire Chief Supt. Roel Jeremy Diaz will head the investigation and go to Iloilo to determine the extent of participation or accountability of each personnel who was with the group.
The fire officer who tested positive for COVID-19 used to be assigned in Cebu, Año said. The area is among those considered hotspots of the virus.
She underwent RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing on June 6 and was supposed to go on 14-day quarantine but went to Boracay on June 12, breaking isolation.
“She was formerly assigned in Cebu and she arrived at the headquarters of the Bureau of Fire Protection in Iloilo on June 5. She was subjected for PCR testing the next day and supposedly she should undergo home quarantine for the next 14 days,” said Año.
“The officer is really a PUI or a PUM (person under investigation or person under monitoring) that’s why she was subjected to testing. She did not wait for the quarantine to finish or even wait for the result of the PCR test and then she violated the quarantine period and her seniors or authorities tolerated it,” he said.
He said the officer’s positive COVID-19 result came out on June 14, when she had already gone to Boracay with several fellow officers.
As a result, the DILG chief said a total of 197 people are now under quarantine. The group of 28 who were on the island with the coronavirus-positive fire officer will be subjected to PCR testing.
A total of 24 staffers of the hotel they stayed in and also boatmen who had ferried them to and from the island were also placed under quarantine.
“Because of one incident it caused a lot of inconvenience and put risks on the lives of these people,” said Año.
Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said they already revoked the authority to operate and the DOT accreditation of the hotel where the group stayed for 2 days.
She explained that the group came to the island for unofficial business and stayed in the hotel that was still not allowed to operate at the time. The island reopened for tourism operations on June 16 only for travelers from within Western Visayas.
“We immediately removed the certificate to operate. Ironically, they received their certificate to operate Monday. We revoked that already. We also removed their accreditation. They cannot do business at all,” she said.
Puyat said they were already busy preparing to open Boracay by deploying 4 teams to do ocular inspections of hotels to see if they comply with health protocols.
“This is what makes me angry because we were rushing to open. Now, the team that did an ocular inspection in that particular hotel is now under quarantine also so nabawasan kami (we have less personnel),” she said.
“Napaka-iresponsable (It was so irresponsible). When we talked to our lawyers removal na talaga ‘yan (that's already basis for removal), not only they did not have the certificate, authority to operate, tanggal ang accreditation (removal of accreditation),” she said.