Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the government to ensure the safety of locally stranded individuals who are currently stuck in Metro Manila and other urban centers due to the extended community quarantine measures and are waiting for the chance to go home to their provinces.
“Tulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan na naghahanap ng paraang makauwi pero bigyan natin sila ng maayos na sistema para hindi sila nakaabang lang sa mga transportation terminals. Alagaan rin natin sila, bigyan ng pagkain, maayos na masisilungan, at huwag hayaang magkumpol-kumpol para rin maiwasan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit,” he said.
That said, Go emphasized that local government units should also be ready to accept returning residents and proper coordination must be done by the national government to avoid unsanctioned travels that do not meet the minimum health and safety protocols necessary to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“Kaya I’m urging the government na unahin nila ang health protocols na dapat ligtas po ang lahat ng bumibiyahe, at willing at handa po ang mga LGUs na tanggapin sila,” Go explained.
“Ito po ay para maiwasan rin ang mga iligal na gustong bumiyahe para makauwi sa kanilang probinsya. Mahirap po ‘yun, ‘yun ang dapat higpitan, ‘yun ang delikado,” he added.
Go, then, detailed the safe return of several LSIs back to their home provinces the past weeks, some of whom his office helped facilitate.
“Mas maigi pang dumaan sa proseso tulad ng ginawa ng mga nakaraang linggo, may send off noong July 3 at 4 papuntang Mindanao. Mahigit 3,000. Sa tulong rin po ni Chavit Singson, nagtulung-tulong ang gobyerno nakapauwi tayo ng 3,000 sa Mindanao,” Go said. Narvacan, Ilocos Sur Mayor Chavit Singson provided buses that can be used for free to bring LSIs to their provinces.
“Ito namang July 10 at 11, may nakauwi sa Albay at sa Bohol. Tumutulong po ang aking opisina sa test kits para ma-screen sila bago umuwi. Face mask (ay) nagpapadala ako at pagkain habang nasa biyahe. Pero importante gawin ito sa ligtas na paraan. Sundin po ang health protocols,” he shared.
Another batch of LSIs are tentatively scheduled to leave the capital on July 25-26, destined to various regions in the country.
The Hatid Tulong Program is a joint initiative of the Office of the President, COVID-19 National Task Force, Department of Transportation and various other agencies. The office of Sen. Go actively participated in the initiative that was launched in response to a directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to help locally stranded individuals, OFWs and other affected Filipinos who need to go home to their families in the provinces.
“It’s unacceptable that our countrymen could not go home. It is their right to go home, to live or die there. You can’t deny that from Filipinos,” the President said in a previous address, sternly reminding local government units to accept returning residents.
Go, during the interview, also explained the objectives of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program of the government which seeks to accelerate economic development across the country and decongest Metro Manila in the process.
The Senator hopes that the proper implementation of the program after the COVID-19 crisis can give Filipinos hope of a better future and avoid the need for those in the provinces to migrate to urban areas just to get better economic opportunities.
“Ito ay Executive Order 114 na pinirmahan ni Pangulong Duterte para po sa long-term program ng gobyerno para bigyan ng bagong pag-asa ang mga kababayan nating gustong mamuhay sa kanilang probinsya,” Go said.
According to the EO, the BP2 will bring “balanced regional development and equitable distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities through policies and programs that boost countryside development and inclusive growth.” The program will also provide adequate social services to its people, promote employment and focus on key areas, such as empowerment of local industries, food security and infrastructure development in rural areas.
In mid-June, the government temporarily suspended the BP2 program in order to prioritize the Hatid Tulong initiatives. Given this, Go is urging agencies mandated to implement the BP2 program to use this time to conduct a thorough review taking into consideration the health and safety measures that should be implemented as well as the readiness of LGUs to support their growing communities by ensuring that economic opportunities will be available for them.
“We have enough time to polish, study and review the necessary guidelines to ensure that those who will avail of the program can be provided sufficient economic opportunities in the provinces,” Go stressed.
Go explained that the Hatid Tulong is a short-term assistance program intended to help LSIs affected by the lockdown to return to their home provinces. In contrast, the BP2 program is a long-term plan of the government to decongest the capital by encouraging residents and businesses to relocate to and invest in regions outside Metro Manila.