By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Monday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to conduct a thorough review of the “Hatid Tulong” and “Balik Probinsya” programs which health experts are now blaming for the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The programs are aimed at helping locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) return to their respective homes.
Since this is already a directive from President Duterte, Go said it is important to make sure that proper health and safety protocols are in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19. He said that proper coordination must also be conducted to make sure that the local government units (LGUs) are willing and ready to accept their constituents.
“Kung hindi po willing at kung hindi naman po handa ang mga LGUs na tanggapin ang kanilang mga kababayan, huwag na muna dapat payagang makabyahe ang mga ito (If the LGUs concerned are not willing and not prepared to accept their constituents, then they should not be allowed to travel),” Go said in a statement.
“Siguraduhin muna na may kakayahan ang LGUs na mag-test, mag-quarantine, at maalagaan ang kanilang mga kababayang darating bago nila pauwiin (We need to ensure that the LGU is capable to test, quarantine, and attend to the needs of their constituents who wish to return before they are allowed to go home),” said the senator, who currently chairs the Senate committee on health and demography.
“I welcome calls from various experts and stakeholders to review any program of the government, including the Balik Probinsya Program and Hatid Tulong initiative,” he said.
“After all, our collective goal is to make the whole government more responsive to the rapidly changing concerns brought by the global health crisis,” he added.
Likewise, Go urged agencies under the Executive department tasked to implement the ‘Balik Probinsya’ program to conduct a thorough review taking into consideration the health and safety measures that must be implemented.
“This will give more time for LGUs to prepare their communities for the return of BP2 beneficiaries. We have enough time to study and review the necessary guidelines and seek wisdom from other LGUs prior to implementing the BP2 program,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said he believes the government should include LSIs and other individuals who wish to return to the provinces in its COVID-19 testing protocols.
“I think the Balik Probinsiya is a good program that government should encourage with some of our cities bursting at the seams. We need to encourage private investment and government should also pour in crucial infrastructure which will spur investment and growth,” he said.
“Isama na lang yung balak bumalik sa probinsiya sa mga dadaan sa testing para limitado ang infections (I hope they include those who wish to return to their provinces in the mandatory COVID-19 testing so the infections would be limited),” Angara said when sought for comment.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa also said he sees no problem with the programs helping LSIs and OFWs to return to their respective homes as long as proper health protocols and quarantine requirements are followed in the movement of these individuals.