Palace: Government reviewing âHatid Probinsyaâ
Nearly 500 locally stranded individuals board the BRP Davao del Sur, which is bound for the Visayas, at the South Harbor in Manila yesterday.
Edd Gumban

Palace: Government reviewing ‘Hatid Probinsya’

Miriam Desacada (The Philippine Star) - June 22, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government will craft a policy on locally stranded individuals following the rise of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the Visayas.

Fourteen lawmakers from Eastern Visayas had earlier urged the Duterte administration to review the “Hatid Probinsya” program, which aims to assist people who were stranded because of quarantine restrictions in a bid to contain the spread of the disease.

Citing official records, the lawmakers said the rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the region was observed shortly after the program was implemented.

They added that the government has the duty to ensure that people returning to Eastern Visayas are free from the coronavirus infection and other diseases before they are allowed to rejoin their families.

“For now, we are reviewing and we are forming a policy on locally stranded individuals because our existing protocols are for returning (overseas Filipino workers) and overseas Filipinos,” Roque told state-run television station PTV last Saturday.

“The (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) discussed this (on Friday). They agreed that upon the arrival of the (polymerase chain reaction) testing kits we ordered, we can subject the locally stranded individuals who are about to go home to PCR testing, and we will form a concrete policy and protocol when it comes to locally stranded individuals,” he added.

Under present protocols, OFWs and overseas Filipinos should secure a medical certificate before they can return to their provinces, according to the Palace spokesman. Once they arrive in their provinces, they have to be subjected to PCR testing or undergo 14-day quarantine if their area has no capability to conduct tests.

“Hatid Probinsya” is different from the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa” program, which seeks to achieve a “balanced regional development” by offering cash, education, health, livelihood and housing assistance to people who will return to their provinces.

The government has suspended the implementation of “Balik Probinsya” to prioritize the provision of transportation assistance to people stranded in Metro Manila.

The government has sent home more than 30,000 locally stranded individuals and about 54,000 OFWs.

Roque said the government is continuously looking for funds to boost its COVID-19 response effort.

“We appeal for some patience. We are paying taxes and we will know how much is in the national coffers, and we can determine how much more we can spend for COVID-19,” he added.

32 new cases in E. Visayas

The Department of Health-Region 8 (DOH-8) yesterday reported 32 new COVID-19 positive cases, raising the total number to 395 in Eastern Visayas.

Two of the new cases, which came from the results of swab tests done at the Divine Word Hospital Virus Laboratory in Tacloban City, were one each of Naval, Biliran and San Miguel, Leyte.

Thirty other positive cases came from test results at the Eastern Visayas Regional COVID-19 Test Center also in Tacloban.

Of this number, 11 came from Tacloban, eight from Ormoc City, and one each from the towns of Dulag, Bato, Palo, Sta. Fe, and Tabon-tabon, all in Leyte province. Two were from Bontoc and one was from Malitbog in Southern Leyte. Three came from Basey and one from Villareal, all in Samar province.

The local government units (LGUs) with their first COVID-19 cases were the towns of Dulag and Sta. Fe in Leyte, and Villareal in Samar.

Records, however, indicated that most of these confirmed cases were from locally stranded individuals and not from local transmission.

Meanwhile, 15 employees of the DOH-8 have been subjected to swab tests after one other employee had earlier been found positive for the virus.

It was also reported that a number of DOH-8 employees were set to hold a protest rally due to allegations that the department did not give true information on COVID-19 confirmed cases and put at risk the welfare of their families.

DOH-8 information officer John Paul Roca, however, belied these allegations, saying all verified data of every positive case has been given to every concerned LGU.

‘Wait out flights at home’

The Philippine Army has asked the public to wait out their flights at home as temporary shelter facilities for locally stranded individuals provided by the military are already nearing full capacity.

Army public affairs office chief Col. Ramon Zagala said at present, more individuals are coming into the temporary shelters than those who are able to go back to their provinces.

While they try to accommodate more stranded individuals, Zagala said that they would prioritize those who have confirmed booking with airlines first.

“We appeal to our fellow citizens, if possible, to wait for confirmation if their flights are not yet ready, so that they won’t squeeze together, because our whole purpose in accommodating locally stranded individuals is to keep everybody safe, and particularly observe social distancing,” he said in an interview with radio station dzBB.

Over the past weeks, hundreds of stranded individuals took to camping outside the airport and under flyovers while waiting for flights home.

More than 400 stranded individuals were brought into Army shelter for temporary accommodation.

Commercial flights were grounded and have yet to resume full operations due to the pandemic.

Zagala said the government is trying to address the problem in coordination with the IATF and airline companies.

Clustered flights, mostly for locally stranded individuals bound for Mindanao, have aided a number of the stranded.

Zagala noted that there has been continued clamor from stranded individuals to go back home more than three months since the start of lockdown due to the pandemic. Romina Cabrera

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