MANILA – As the initial phase of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program commences, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Monday called on government agencies to safeguard the welfare and well-being of individuals and families in Metro Manila and in other urban areas who will be returning to their home provinces.
“Marami po sa ating mga kababayan mula probinsya at nagpunta rito sa Metro Manila ang nais na ngayong umuwi. Tulungan po natin silang makabalik lahat sa tulong nitong BP2 program at iba pang inisyatibo ng gobyerno (Many of our countrymen from the provinces who came to Metro Manila already want to return home. Let’s help them all return through the BP2 program, and other government initiatives),” Go said.
According to the chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, these affected individuals only wanted to seek better opportunities in Metro Manila, while some are students from the provinces who wanted to take their education in big cities.
“Because of the stringent travel restrictions under the enhanced community quarantine, these people were cut off from their families for two months now,” he noted.
“Nadala na po sila sa Metro Manila. Takot sila dahil sa virus at nais na nilang makauwi sa kanila. Siguraduhin po natin na makababalik sila ng kanilang probinsya na ligtas (They have been daunted in Metro Manila. They are afraid because of the virus and they want to go back home. Let’s ensure that they safely return to their provinces),” Go urged.
National Housing Authority (NHA) general manager and BP2 Program Council Executive Director Marcelino Escalada Jr. said the first batch is scheduled to leave early this week.
Among those who are included in the first batch of individuals who will be assisted to return to their provinces under BP2 program include 112 persons bound for Leyte.
Escalada said returnees to Leyte are prioritized since the province has registered the highest number of individuals who signified readiness to return at 2,300 persons.
“Our target is 100 to 300 leaving for the provinces depending upon the capacity of the local government units (LGUs) to undertake health protocols,” he said.
Once they have been successfully brought back to Leyte, the program will have simultaneous trips to provinces throughout Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.
Meanwhile, 55 individuals in Cebu are also expected to return to Davao City by next week under BP2 program, which include 18 students, 21 people with disabilities, two senior citizens, a pregnant woman, and 13 other individuals.
Escalada said transportation needs for all returnees will be provided or facilitated by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) while cash allowances will be extended to them by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
A dispatch protocol will also be prepared by the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that strict coronavirus disease (Covid-19) precautionary measures are followed during their return, including subjecting all returnees to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
In the meantime, NHA is preparing a dispatch site for the returnees.
For the initial batch, NHA is utilizing its property near Vertis North in Quezon City where a temporary terminal will be installed.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government will link up with the target local government units (LGUs) and ensure that their other needs are met.
At the same time, all concerned government agencies will extend other needed assistance to the returnees upon arrival in their respective provinces based on their profile and assessment.
The Office of Senator Go has also assisted in coordination with appropriate agencies regarding identification of BP2 beneficiaries, provision of their needs, as well as in facilitating the issuance of clearance in their ports of destination.
With more Filipinos availing of the BP2 program to return to their provinces, Go stressed that the whole nation should learn from the experiences encountered during the Covid-19 crisis, and see the initiative as what it is — “a long-term, holistic program” to address perennial problems in both urban and rural areas and not simply just as an immediate response to the crisis.
“We have to act now. Marami nang gustong umuwi pagkatapos ng naranasan nila dahil sa Covid-19. Kaya inilunsad ang programang ito ngayon para matulungan sila ng gobyerno at mabigyan sila ng mas maayos na buhay kung pipiliin nilang bumalik sa kanilang mga probinsya (Many have already expressed their willingness to go back home after their experiences with Covid-19. That is why this program was launched, so that government can assist them and provide them with a better life once they opt to return to their provinces),” Go said. (IA/PNA)