Fri. Sep 17th, 2021

MANILA – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday commended concerned national and local government agencies for their efforts in facilitating the return of 57 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) in Cebu back to their hometowns in Mindanao amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.

Some 54 individuals, which included students, senior citizens and persons with disability (PWDs), who have been long stranded in Cebu due to quarantine restrictions, arrived in Davao City Monday afternoon after traveling by land from Cagayan de Oro City where they disembarked from the ship that ferried them. Three other LSIs, who are personnel of the Department of Health (DOH) remained in Cagayan de Oro City where they reside.

The office of Senator Go, together with the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV), assisted other government agencies in facilitating their travel back to Mindanao.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat ng nakipag-coordinate sa programa upang makatulong sa ating mga kababayang Pilipino. Inalalayan natin ang pag-uwi ng mga na-stranded na kababayan natin sa Cebu para makauwi at makasama na nila ang kanilang mga pamilya sa Mindanao (I thank all those who coordinated with the program to help our fellow Filipinos. We facilitated the return of our stranded countrymen to their homes and be reunited at last with their families in Mindanao,” Go said.

He cited the vital roles played by partner agencies — such as the DOH, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Cebu Port Authority, local government units (LGUs) and the health offices of Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and Minglanilla — for the success of the initiative.

“These agencies helped in providing assistance, such as the processing of documents for the LSIs, including health protocols, to ensure the LSI’s safe travel and that there will not be any risk of spreading the disease,” Go said, noting that more stranded persons in Cebu are being processed for subsequent trips back to Mindanao.

Prior to their travel, the 57 LSIs underwent Covid-19 testing and other necessary health protocols.

They embarked from Mandaue City, Cebu on board Super Shuttle RoRo 10 Sunday morning, and were accompanied by two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel on their journey.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) gave financial assistance to the LSIs who are not part of the social amelioration program, while the OPAV provided personal protection equipment (PPE) to the ship’s crew, the PCG personnel and the drivers of the various transportation services for the LSIs.

After arriving in Davao City, all LSIs were subjected to a rapid diagnostic test. Those who tested negative for the virus were assisted in going home, where they were required to observe the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Travel documents of each returnee were also ensured for passage in several checkpoints, such as in Bukidnon.

Grateful returnees

The returning LSIs were all very grateful to Go and the Duterte administration for facilitating their return to Mindanao.

Among them was Edith Villanueva who, along with one of her children and several friends, had been stranded in Cebu since March 18.

She said that amid their pitiful plight, she asked for help from Go’s office so that they may return to Davao City.

“Malaki ang aking pasasalamat sa initiative ni Senator Bong Go, ng DOH, at ng OPAV dahil makakauwi na kami ngayon sa Davao na libre lahat. Maraming salamat sa assistance na ibinigay ng lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno at pati na rin sa mga LGUs na kasama sa initiative na ito (I greatly appreciate the initiative of Senator Go, the DOH and OPAV because we can now go home to Davao for free. Thank you very much for the assistance from all the government agencies and the LGUs that are part of this initiative),” Villanueva said.

Another LSI who thanked the government was Romeo Fuyonan, Jr., who is a PWD.

“Sobrang mahirap ma-stranded na dayo ka sa isang lugar. Hindi mo alam kung sino tutulong sa iyo. Malayo ka pa sa pamilya (It was very difficult to be stranded far from home and family, and not knowing who to turn to for help),” he said after disembarking from the ship.

“Pero nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos, lalo na’t ginawa niyang instrument si President Rodrigo Duterte, si Senator Bong Go, at ang iba pang kasali sa inisyatibong pagpauwi sa amin. Successful kaming nakauwi dahil sa tulong nila (But I thank God, especially for making President Duterte, Senator Go and other partners in this initiative, as instruments to bring us home. We were able to successfully return home because of their help),” Fuyonan said.

Not part of BP2

Meanwhile, Go, as the proponent of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program, clarified that facilitating the return of locally stranded individuals, such as stranded students, workers, and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) among others, is not part of the BP2 program package.

The program, which aims to decongest metropolitan areas and spur countryside development, was institutionalized by President Duterte with the signing of Executive Order No. 114.

“The BP2 program caters to residents of Metro Manila who wish to relocate to their home provinces for good. There is a process in place to ensure their safe travel and the provision of necessary assistance from partner agencies,” Go said.

“There are other similar government initiatives in place to respond to the needs of stranded Filipinos who need help in going home to their provinces,” he noted.

Among these are the Hatid Estudyante Para Makabalik sa Probinsya program of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for stranded students; as well as programs initiated by the DOTr, MARINA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for OFWs who wish to be repatriated, or those who, upon their return to the country, are stranded in Metro Manila and wish to go home to their provinces.

To avoid confusion, Go urged concerned national government agencies to “clearly explain” to the public the available programs of government that could help stranded individuals return to their provinces, as well as the proper processes that needed to be complied with.

“I am also reminding everyone to always prioritize the people’s welfare especially in this time of crisis. Magtulungan at magbayanihan po tayo para maiwasan ang hindi pagkakaintindihan at para rin po malampasan natin ang krisis na ito bilang isang nagkakaisang bansa (Let’s work and cooperate with each other to eliminate any misunderstanding, and for us to overcome this crisis as one nation),” Go said. (ia/PNA)

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