MANILA – Over 13,000 remain stranded in Luzon and are still awaiting transportation assistance to return to their home provinces in Visayas and Mindanao, a government official said Wednesday.
Transportation of the stranded individuals are already being arranged under the government's "Hatid Tulong" program, its head Joseph Encabo said.
"Ito po ay nandito sa Luzon at sila po ay gustong umuwi sa kanilang probinsya sa Visayas at Mindanao," Encabo said in a virtual press briefing.
(They are here in Luzon and they want to return to their provinces in Visayas and Mindanao)
The government last week suspended its "Balik Probinsya" program, President Rodrigo Duterte's push for Metro Manila workers to return to their home provinces, to give way to the homecoming of individuals stranded because of coronavirus lockdowns.
As of Wednesday, Encabo said some 53,000 stranded Filipinos have been transported back to their home provinces.
ON LGU WORRIES
Some local government officials have expressed worries over the homecoming of stranded individuals due to the threat of COVID-19, as most cases have been reported in Metro Manila and other hotspots in Luzon.
Encabo, however, assured local government units that those under the "Hatid Tulong" program are subject to rapid antibody testing, and only those with negative results are allowed to go home.
"Lahat po ay dumadaan sa rapid test…Para 'yung receiving LGU po ay kampante nilang ire-receive ang kanilang constituent," he said.
(Everyone undergoes rapid test…This is so that the receiving LGU can feel assured when they receive constituents.)
The official also appealed to LGUs not to pin the blame over COVID-19 cases on returning stranded individuals as he called for stronger verification.
"Kung mayroon pong mga cases na ganoon, I think dapat po i-assess or i-validate or i-vet ng LGU kung saan talaga nanggaling 'yung tao na iyon para malaman natin kung parte ba siya ng programa ng Hatid Tulong," Encabo said.
(If there are cases like that, I think it's important for the LGU to assess or validate or vet where that person came from so we can find out if that's under the Hatid Tulong program)