BACOLOD CITY – The city government of Bacolod, through its Department of Social Services and Development (DSSD), and the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO), facilitated the return of 73 Badjaos to their hometown in Jolo, Sulu on Sunday.
Mayor Evelio Leonardia said that in this pandemic, it was imperative that the Badjaos be sent home before they become victims or carriers of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as they continue roam and beg around the city.
Those who were sent home were members of the 33 Badjao families rounded up by the DSSD last August upon instructions of Leonardia.
According to DSSD Head Pacita Tero, the Badjaos agreed to be sent home after they were briefed about the risks they may run into while roaming the streets of Bacolod in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak.
After wandering the city streets, the Badjaos were temporarily housed at the Bacolod Youth Home in Barangay Vista Alegre, where they were provided with daily food provisions and other basic necessities by the city government.
The return of the Badjaos became a challenge in view of the ongoing pandemic, and the bombing in Jolo, Sulu a few weeks ago that almost aborted the project.
However, personnel from the DSSD and the BCPO have managed to safely bring them to Dumaguete City for the first leg of their journey home.
Leonardia thanked Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, who approved the passage of the Badjaos through the territorial jurisdiction of Negros Oriental straight on to the pier in Dumaguete City.
From Dumaguete, the Badjaos were transported to Zamboanga City by sea.
Their trip back home was undertaken in coordination with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
The OCD of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will then receive the Badjaos, and ensure their safe travel on to Jolo.
For their trip home, the DSSD provided them with food and cash allowances for their travel expenses, rented a bus to bring them to Dumaguete City, and paid for their boat fare to Zamboanga City with the use of program funds of the Department of Social Services and Development (DSWD) regularly coursed through the DSSD.