Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go called on the different government agencies to assist all locally stranded individuals in Metro Manila and other parts of the country so that they can safely return to their home provinces amid the COVID-19 crisis. He also urged them to ensure that health protocols are followed and proper coordination between national agencies and local government units are implemented when transporting these LSIs.

“I am urging concerned agencies in the Executive branch to make sure that for every Filipino we send home to their provinces, the necessary health protocols are followed and proper coordination with their home LGUs are implemented in order to avoid health risks and confusion upon their arrival,” he said in a statement.

Go’s appeal is in support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s instructions to the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases that the Department of Interior and Local Government should properly coordinate with concerned LGUs to ensure that safety measures are in place and necessary assistance can be provided to returning residents.

During the Senate Committee on Health hearing held on Tuesday, May 26, Go also appealed to local government units to prepare for the return of LSIs, especially stranded OFWs who wish to go back to their home provinces.

“Tanggapin po natin sila, lalo na sa kanilang mga bayan. Sila po ang ating modern-day heroes na nagtatrabaho at nagpapakamatay po sa ibang bansa. Tulungan po natin sila lalo na sa panahon ngayon na naghihirap sila,” he said during the hearing.

“Huwag na po natin antayin na umabot pa po sa depresyon. Napalayo na po sila sa kanilang mga pamilya for several months or even years, tapos ngayon, pagdating sa sariling bayan, ay ikukulong pa natin sila. Basta kung sumunod na po sila sa mga quarantine protocols, safe, at tested (negative for COVID-19) na po sila, dapat pabalikin na po natin sila sa kanilang mga probinsya para maasikaso at makapiling na po nila ang kanilang mga pamilya,” he added.

Go further urged concerned agencies to hasten the process of the issuance of health certificates of overseas Filipino workers stranded in Metro Manila after complying with the COVID-19 testing and other health protocols. This came after reports about OFWs overstaying in various quarantine hotels for more than two weeks, beyond the prescribed quarantine period.

In a statement, Go said that he “sympathizes with the OFWs who are still stranded in Metro Manila and are in quarantine facilities for more than the prescribed 14-day period despite complying with health protocols and having been tested negative for COVID-19 already.”

Go added that the delay in the release of their health certifications has caused unnecessary burden to them as some OFWs are now even experiencing depression.

“Nakita naman po natin ang mga pagsubok na pinagdaraanan ng ating mga OFWs dahil sa COVID-19. Dapat lang na mapauwi na sila sa kanilang mga probinsya dahil matagal na rin po silang nawalay sa kanilang mga pamilya,” Go said.

“Alagaan po natin sila at suklian natin ang kanilang mga sakripisyo ng mas maayos at mabilis na serbisyo,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go is also asking the different agencies to explain to the public the various government programs and initiatives, as well as the processes to be followed on how the public can benefit from these, to help affected Filipinos who need to go home to their provinces.

“Umaapela po ako sa mga ahensya ng gobyerno na ipaliwanag ang iba’t ibang programa ng gobyerno na pwedeng makatulong sa mga gustong umuwi sa kanilang mga probinsya at kung ano ang proseso na kailangan sundin,” the senator said.

Go clarified that the various “hatid” assistance programs being implemented by various agencies for stranded students, workers, tourists and OFWs, among others, are different from the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program which he proposed and is now institutionalized under Executive Order 114, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“As the proponent of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program, I wish to clarify that stranded workers and OFWs in Metro Manila are not part of the BP2 package. There are other government initiatives in place to respond to their needs,” Go said.

“The BP2 program being implemented by an inter-agency council seeks to assist Filipinos residing in 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,” the senator explained.

Go said that there are other similar government programs that aim to help stranded workers, students, tourists and OFWs, among others.

“Mayroon pong Hatid Estudyante Para Makabalik sa Probinsya program ang DOTr para sa mga estudyante na stranded. Mayroon ring mga programa ang DOLE, DOTr, OWWA at MARINA para sa mga OFWs na bumalik sa bansa o naipit sa Metro Manila at nais umuwi sa kanilang probinsya,” he said, referring to other government initiatives being implemented by various agencies to help LSIs go home and rejoin their families in the provinces.

“I am also reminding the government 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,” Go further said.

“Ang mahalaga, kung anumang programa ‘yan, basta tulungan po nating makauwi ng maayos at ligtas ang mga kababayan nating nanghihingi ng tulong na makabalik sa kanilang mga pamilya. Tulungan natin silang maka-avail ng mga programang mayroon ang gobyerno. Huwag po natin pahabain pa ang paghihirap nila,” he ended.

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