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The female employee of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Western Visayas who tested positive for COVID-19 never took part in the meeting of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) held on the island on June 11.

“No BFP representative was in the meeting nor was the agency invited to the meeting because it is not a member of the BIATF,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Director Natividad Bernardino, who organized the BIATF meeting in her capacity as general manager of the Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG).

Bernardino made the clarification following news reports that the female employee was allegedly part of the BFP contingent that arrived in Boracay for the BIATF meeting led by Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

“I was given specific instructions by Secretary Cimatu to limit the number of participants in the meeting and to only have a small group,” Bernardino pointed out.

She added: “Secretary Cimatu also repeatedly emphasized to strictly observe physical distancing. We fully complied with all those.”

According to Bernardino, there were only 15 persons in the main meeting room, including the three secretaries, although its normal capacity is more than 200 persons.

The DENR official added that strict health and safety protocols were observed from the arrival of the attendees, the actual meeting and when the officials went around the island for site inspections.

“Because we wanted to safeguard the island and its people from COVID-19, we had the participants pass through all protocols and we limited the number of attendees coming in the island for the meeting,” Bernardino said, adding that those who could not be physically present joined through video conference.

Records from the regional health department showed that the BFP employee arrived in Boracay on June 12, or a day after the actual BIATF meeting took place, and stayed on the island on June 14. The following day, June 15, the Department of Health in the region released test results of six COVID-19 cases, which include the BFP employee.

The island was COVID-free for more than a month prior the incident involving the BFP worker. It was closed on March 14 as a preventive measure against COVID-19. ###