While he emphasized need for stringent health protocols in the return of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) to their provinces, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated also the need to assist them, saying that the welfare of every Filipino is of paramount importance.

“Uunahin po natin ‘yung health (ng bawat Pilipino). ‘Yun ang pinakamahalaga sa atin, kalusugan po ng bawat Pilipino. Pero ‘di natin pwedeng ipagpaliban ito na ‘di sila (LSIs) makauwi sa mga probinsya,” Go said during an ambush interview on Thursday, July 2, after visiting the wake of soldiers who died in a reportedly accidental encounter between police and military personnel in Jolo, Sulu recently.

“Minsan po media na ang lumalapit sa akin na tulungan ang mga nandito kaya ‘di ko po matiis na ‘di tumulong at pinagbilin po ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte na ‘wag lang silang hayaan diyan, pakainin sila hanggang sa makauwi sila sa kanilang probinsya,” he added.

Go also recalled the requests of some LSIs to the government to help them go back to their home provinces. “Some of them po ay nakikiusap, bahala nang wala silang assistance sa gobyerno basta makauwi lang sila dahil andun sila sa mga kamag-anak nila, may matakbuhan silang nanay, anak, kapatid.”

“Nandito sila sa Maynila, nakakalungkot ni CR, ni higaan wala silang mapuntahan dahil ito po ang mga taong nagbaka-sakaling maghanap ng trabaho dito sa Metro Manila, inabutan ng lockdown. Marami po ‘yan kawawa po,” he added.

That said, Go stressed that health protocols must be put in place in transporting LSIs to ensure that they are in good health when they arrive in their respective provinces. “Unahin natin ang health ng bawat Pilipino. Sino ba naman ang may gustong magkasakit at magkahawahan?”

“Ipatupad natin ang health protocols bago sila pasakayin, pauuwiin at makapiling ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay sa probinsya. Kawawa naman ang kapwa Pilipino natin. Tulungan naman natin silang makauwi pero dapat sumunod sila sa health protocols, sa patakaran ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases),” Go said.

Since Hatid Tulong is a directive from the President, Go reiterated that it is important to make sure that proper health and safety protocols are in place in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Proper coordination must also be conducted to make sure that receiving LGUs 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 explained.

Earlier, Go visited some LSIs temporarily being accommodated near the Libingan ng mga Bayani to check on their situation. His office has also previously assisted other LSIs and is committed to continue helping those in need of government assistance especially in this time of crisis.

Meanwhile, clarifying that the Hatid Tulong initiative of the government is different from the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program, Go assured that the latter will resume once the current pandemic has been contained.

“Ito namang kasalukuyang suspindidong BP2 program ay soon ipagpapatuloy po ito. Ito po ‘yung may short term at long term program. Mas maganda lang po dito may sasalo sa kanila sa probinsya. Nandun po ang iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno para tumulong sa kanila at magbigay ng livelihood,” Go said.

“Ako naman, bilang mambabatas, I am pushing po for measures na makapagbibigay ng insentibo para sa mga negosyante para doon na sila mag invest ng negosyo at makapagbigay ng trabaho sa mga kababayan na gustong umuwi sa probinsya,” he added.

In his previous statements, Go has steadfastly clarified confusion on the difference between the Hatid Tulong initiative and the BP2 program of the government.

“For the ‘Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa’ program, President Duterte has already signed the Executive Order creating a council composed of more than seventeen departments. It has a short-term and long-term (plan). Under the short-term, they will be assisted in going back to the provinces. They will be provided with livelihood and jobs,” Go said.

“Under the long-term, plans will be made for the provinces, wherein businesses that will invest there will be granted incentives. This is to ensure that returnees will have jobs once they are already in the provinces. This is under the ‘Balik Probinsya’ program.

“Iba naman ang Hatid Tulong initiatives na para sa mga OFWs, LSIs at iba pang apektadong Pilipino na naipit dahil sa community quarantine measures at kailangang matulungang makauwi sa kanilang probinsya,’’ he explained.

Go, then, assured that the BP2 program is not mandatory. “‘Di po nababayaran ang lungkot at alam kong mas gusto nilang makapiling ang kanilang pamilya sa probinsya. Kung sino po ang gustong umuwi, tutulungan natin. Kung ayaw n’yong umuwi, eh, ‘di ‘wag kayong umuwi. Dito lang kayo, wala naman pong pilitan ang Balik Probinsya,” he said.

However, the Senator also stressed that lessons must be learned from the current pandemic and the experiences of those Filipinos who regret coming to Metro Manila after being confronted with the various issues in the urban center.

“Nakikita ko po na ngayon lang ang panahon na maraming gustong umuwi ng probinsya. Dati, we are always fascinated by Metro Manila, ang ganda ng Maynila, ang tataas ng gusali, kumpleto ang entertainment, nandito po ang lahat, kumpleto na po. Ngayon, tanungin ko kayo, gusto n’yo pa dito? Traffic, sikip ng daan, nagkadikit-dikit na nga po ang mga tao dito kaya nagkakahawahan,” he said.

“Ngayon lang po may gustong umuwi. Eh, kung may maitutulong tayo sa ating kapwa Pilipino na programa na makauwi na sila sa probinsya at mabigyan sila ng panibagong pag-asa, gawin natin.

“Kaya nga sabi ng Pangulo: let’s give them hope. Kapag sila, bumalik sa probinsya, meron silang babalikan at makapagsisimula ng bagong buhay. Iba na po ang panahon ngayon. Talagang masasanay na tayo sa new normal,” he ended.

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