Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the Executive branch to review and strengthen health and safety protocols being implemented, especially for those traveling to provinces, in order to avoid the further spread of the COVID-19 disease.

“Kahit niluwagan na ang community quarantine measures sa iilang lugar, higpitan pa rin po natin ang mga patakaran na kaugnay ng pagbyahe patungo sa mga probinsya para maiwasan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit,” he said.

“May mga lugar tulad sa Mindanao na mababa ang kaso ng COVID-19. Hirap na tayong mapigilan ang pagkalat dito sa Metro Manila, huwag na nating hayaan na kumalat pa doon sa mga probinsya ang sakit,” he added.

Go echoed the recommendation of various officials and stakeholders that all flights, buses, vessels, and fast craft ships traveling from one province to another should strictly comply with health and safety protocols and must be required to secure clearance from authorities prior to travel.

Go also reminded authorities that COVID-19 testing must be conducted to passengers prior to travel and the timespan between testing and actual departure must be limited to a shorter period as determined by health experts to ensure reliability of test results and avoid possible exposure of passengers to the virus after being tested negative already.

He also urged concerned agencies to lay down convenient and efficient air, sea or land travel options with a clear schedule provided to the public in order to avoid confusion and overcrowding in terminals.

“Tulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan na naghahanap ng paraan 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,” Go appealed.

Go also echoed Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año’s comments that a systematic single dispatch system which was adopted by the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program during its pilot rollout last May 20 must also be implemented when transporting individuals back to their provinces.

“Ang Balik Probinsya po ay isang magandang huwaran dahil itong Balik Probinsya organized po eh. Pag-alis pa lang dito sa Manila, alam na ng LGU na ilan ang darating, sasalubungin nila, diretso sa quarantine. Maayos ang lahat, wala pong nakakalusot,” the Interior Secretary said.

“Sa ating LSI, gusto natin ay ganon ang gagawin….Kailangan po talaga ay organized at coordinated at ito po ay pag-iibayuhin namin kasama ang ating National Task Force. Sisiguraduhin po natin na ihahatid ang ating mga kababayan nang ligtas,” Año added.

“Mainam ang ‘single dispatch’ system na inadopt ng BP2 implementers sa pagpapauwi ng mga tao sa probinsya dahil mas kontrolado at mas maiiwasan ang exposure ng mga babyahe sa posibleng mahawahan ng sakit,” Go also said.

With regards to the implementation of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program, BP2 Executive Director and National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr. earlier announced that the BP2 council decided to reschedule the subsequent rollouts of BP2 in order to give way to the implementation of Hatid Tulong initiatives.

Given this, Go is also urging executive 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.

“Suspended pa po ang implementasyon nito. This will give more time for receiving LGUs to prepare their communities for the return of BP2 beneficiaries. We have enough time to polish, study and review the necessary guidelines and seek wisdom from other LGUs prior to implementing the BP2 program,” Go, being the proponent of the program, said.

Go also issued a statement on Monday, June 22, urging the Executive branch to conduct a thorough review of the implementation of Hatid Tulong initiatives aimed at helping locally stranded individuals, overseas Filipino workers and other affected Filipinos who wish to return to their provinces amid the ongoing global pandemic.

Go stressed that aside from proper health and safety protocols that should be in place in the implementation of these initiatives, proper coordination must also be conducted to make sure that receiving local government units are willing and ready to accept their constituents.

“Kung hindi po willing at kung hindi naman po handa ang mga LGUs na tanggapin ang kanilang mga kababayan, huwag na muna dapat payagang makabyahe ang mga ito. Siguraduhin muna na may kakayahan ang LGUs na mag-test, mag-quarantine, at maalagaan ang kanilang mga kababayang darating bago nila pauwiin,” he stressed.

He also asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to impose stricter measures to stop unauthorized travels and unsanctioned ‘Hatid’ initiatives reportedly conducted by various LGUs and groups that do not comply with health protocols.

“Sa sinumang pinapayagang maglakbay, siguraduhin na nasusunod ang lahat ng health protocols: testing, health certificate, face mask, social distancing, 14-day quarantine, isolation for positive cases, atbp.,” he explained.

Go said that since Hatid Tulong is a directive from the President, it is important to make sure that it is properly implemented considering the best interests of all Filipinos.

In an address to the nation on Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte reminded LGUs to accept returning residents, saying “’Di pwede na ‘di makauwi ang mga kababayan natin. It is their right to go home, to live or die there. ‘Di mo ma-deny sa Pilipino ‘yan.” Previously, he reiterated the same policy, explaining “Hati tayo sa problema tutal hindi naman kami nagkulang. Whatever you need, we will provide. Kawawa naman. Tulungan ninyo ang mga Pilipino.”

“Nais ko ipaalala sa lahat na hindi natin pwedeng ipagkait ang karapatan ng mga Pilipino na makauwi sa sarili nilang bayan. Obligasyon po ng mga LGUs na tanggapin at alagaan ang kanilang mga kababayan. Gawin lang dapat ito sa paraan na ligtas at hindi makakadagdag sa ating hinaharap na krisis,” Go reechoed.

Go said he welcomes calls from various experts and stakeholders to review any program of the government, including the Balik Probinsya Program and Hatid Tulong initiative.

“After all, our collective goal is to make the whole government more responsive to the rapidly changing concerns brought by the global health crisis,” Go explained.

“Bilang chair ng Senate Committee on Health, lagi kong ipinapaalala sa ating mga ahensya na sundin ang tamang proseso at magkaroon ng maayos na koordinasyon lalo na sa lokal na pamahalaan upang maisaalang-alang palagi ang BUHAY at KALIGTASAN ng mga tao,” he added.

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