Boracay Island (file photo)

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año on Wednesday relieved  Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Region 6 Director Fire Senior Supt. Roderick P. Aguto after one of his personnel broke quarantine protocols on Boracay Island by roaming around the island while awaiting for her COVID-19 test results which came out positive.

“We will never tolerate any wrongdoing by our BFP personnel or any other DILG personnel for that matter because lives are at stake here. Panahon ng pandemya ngayon at hindi puwede ang mga palusot. Moreover, as law enforcers, we must set a good example to our people and the breach of quarantine protocols sets a very bad example,” he said in a statement.

F/SSUPT Jerry D. Candido, the Director for Logistics of BFP-National Headquarters (NHQ), was placed as Officer-in-Charge of BFP-Region 6.

“Alam ninyo po, hindi madali itong contact tracing. To be careless on the part of public safety officers in this time of pandemic is utterly deplorable,” said Año.  The DILG is the lead agency in the contact tracing efforts of NTF COVID.

Año has directed BFP Chief Jose Embang for the immediate investigation of the quarantine breach.

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said massive contact tracing efforts are currently undertaken by BFP-6 together with DILG Region 6 and the Police Regional Office.

“Titiyakin po natin ang medical needs ng mga fire personnel na ito na maaaring na-expose sa COVID-19 subalit mananagot din sila sa anumang maging resulta ng imbestigasyon nila na ipinag-utos ni Secretary Año kaugnay sa posibleng naging kapabayaan” he said.

Malaya added that the BFP Regional Office is now conducting swabbing and placing under quarantine all its personnel who had contact with the .

Based on the initial report, the still unnamed BFP personnel had contact with 27 other BFP personnel, and had “close contact” with two of them.

The DILG did not say which areas and establishments the staffer had been to during her stay in the famed island resort.

The positive COVID-19 result of the personnel came out on June 14, 2020.  The personnel had been in the island for three days according to the local government of Malay, Aklan.

BFP personnel and staff of the reported resort are now under strict quarantine.

The DILG said the BFP-6 Regional Office, its provincial offices, and fire stations have been placed under lockdown and were advised to observe strict sanitation and disinfection efforts.

In a statement, the Department of Tourism (DOT) assured it has already initiated accreditation revocation procedures on the resort that housed the group even when the island was not yet officially open.

“The DOT shall strictly implement rules and regulations under its mandate and shall ensure that both tourism industry players and tourists would have an enjoyable experience in an environment where trust and confidence in destinations are regained during the New Normal,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

The incident comes a day after authorities opened Boracay to Western Visayas tourists to reinvigorate the island’s tourism industry.

In April 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the island for rehabilitation purposes. It reopened in October of the same year.

However, the coronavirus pandemic forced the island to close down again in March 2020. Aklan province has reportedly lost about P11.3 billion in tourism as of May because of the lockdown of the island.  (Rommel F. Lopez)