Gov't eyes Visayas COVID-19 deputy implementer; addresses Balik Probinsiya concerns, stranded OFWs

Published June 20, 2020, 1:25 PM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos 

Malacañang said the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is studying the possibility of naming a deputy implementer of the government’s COVID-19 policies for the entire Visayas due to the rising number of cases there.


Presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced over state-run PTV-4 on Saturday that the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 will evaluate the ground-level response of the Cebu City local government units (LGUs) for a week beginning June 22, 2020.

“[Ito ay] para magkaroon ng mas magaling na calibrated response (This is to have a better and calibrated response),” he said.

According to Roque, one of the possibilities is to set up an NTF Emergency Operation Center and designate a Deputy Implementer for Region VII and the entire Visayas.

The IATF is also considering the establishment of out-patient services in Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs) due to the low utilization of TTMFs and the rising number of individuals isolated in their houses.

The task force is also looking into the harmonization of regional and national data among the NTF and the departments of Health (DOH) and the Interior and Local Government (DILG); the improvement of the management of Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs); and the strict and uniform enforcement of minimum public health standards in healthcare settings, wet markets, supermarkets, government offices, and workplaces.

It can happen to anyone

However, Roque said the IATF’s plan with Cebu was not because there were lapses on how the LGUs handle the pandemic and that this could happen to any LGU.

“Ang kwento ng Cebu ay pwedeng maging kwento ng kahit anong bayan sa Pilipinas (What’s happening to Cebu can happen to any locality in the Philippines),” he said.

Roque said Filipinos need to realize that the threat of COVID-19 is real and that the government needs to do everything to contain the spread of the disease.

He likewise called on LGUs to declare a localized lockdown if the number of cases in a certain barangay, zone, building, street, or subdivision rises.


Roque said the NTF was likewise tasked to harmonize the efforts of the “Balik Probinsya” Program and the efforts to send home LSIs.

However, the Palace official respected the move of Eastern Visayas lawmakers to call for a review of the Balik Probinsiya program due to the number of individuals who turned out to be positive after being sent home through the program.

He said the government is ironing out the policy for our LSIs because existing protocols are for overseas Filipino workers and returning overseas Filipinos.

He added that once the PCR test kits the Philippines ordered has arrived, the government can test LSIs before they are sent to their hometowns.

Stranded OFWs

Meanwhile, Roque said the government was doing everything it could to bring home OFWs stranded abroad, particularly those in the Middle East, and pointed out that many countries in the Middle East are still in lockdown mode.

He said inquiries and requests for assistance may be directed to the Philippines Overseas Labor Office or the concerned embassies.

Roque also said that draft guidelines on allowing the entry of foreign seafafrrs for the purpose of ship crew rotation ae being prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), together with the DOH, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and the Bureau of Immigration (BI).