In the midst of the pandemic made worse by an emergency situation, the Department of Interior and Local Government directed the Cagayan provincial government Saturday to temporarily defer the implementation of “strict health protocol restrictions on relief and rescue personnel’’ as aid continue to pour in the disaster-torn province.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año issued the order “to allow relief, search, and rescue teams and media outlets with immediate access to areas affected by typhoon ‘Ulysses.’’’

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Department of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Año (NTF Against COVID-19 / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

He added that the DILG had received numerous reports that relief and media organizations are being barred at the provincial border because of strict quarantine restrictions imposed by the provincial government.

“The situation in Cagayan requires unhampered disaster response and recovery operations by rescue and relief organizations. Therefore, all LGUs in Cagayan and Isabela should ease up access in their areas to facilitate disaster operations,” Año said.

The DILG chief emphasized that the existing LGU requirements related to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic should not hamper nor delay the entry, passage, or operations of all government and private sector humanitarian assistance and response personnel.

He directed the “regional IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) and all LGUs (local government units) to exercise its sound discretion in lifting the restrictions.’’

Año asked all disaster response personnel and media workers to observe minimum health standards and use face masks and face shields while doing their humanitarian work.

“The mayors know best the situation in their areas, so they should use their sound discretion in lifting the restrictions but always implement the minimum health standards in the conduct of relief operations.”

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