DAVAO CITY – The “Balik Basilan” program, which is facilitating the return of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) from Manila to Basilan, will be suspended for 15 days due to the alarming increase in the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the province, the provincial government of Basilan announced Monday night.
A copy of the letter dated July 1 from Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who chairs the National Task Force COVID-19, was posted on Facebook by the provincial government.
The letter was addressed to Basilan Governor Jim Hataman Salliman, and stated that the request for the suspension of the repatriation of LSIs from Manila to Basilan has been approved. The suspension became effective on July 1 and will last for over two weeks.
In a statement, the provincial government said that, since May 28, the program has “already accepted and accommodated at least 1,983 LSIs and 107 ROFs (returning overseas Filipinos).”
“Due to the influx of returning LSIs, all of our quarantine [facilities] are in its full capacity and with the alarming increase of COVID19 cases in Basilan,” it said.
As of July 6, the provincial government said Basilan has a total of 69 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 28 new cases reported on Sunday night, July 5. The provincial government has yet to release the profiles of the new cases.
However, the city government of Lamitan recorded 17 new cases on Sunday night, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the city to 24. It said all the 24 confirmed cases in Lamitan were LSIs.
The provincial government of Basilan said that “all necessary coordination shall be exhausted to ensure that LSIs travelling back are properly informed.”
It added that the decision to suspend the program was made “to safeguard the health of the Basileños and with the consent of the National Inter Agency Task Force.”