MANILA (PNA) – Several lawmakers from Eastern Visayas on Thursday, June 18, called for a review of the government’s Hatid Probinsya program and the health protocols being implemented for locally stranded individuals (LSIs) returning to the provinces.
At least 12 Eastern Visayas lawmakers made the call in light of the rising number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in their region.
Hatid Probinsya initiative is a short-term humanitarian effort to assist individuals, tourists, students, and overseas Filipino workers stranded in Metro Manila due to travel restrictions during the quarantine period.
The joint statement was signed by House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Northern Samar Reps. Paul Ruiz Daza and Jose Ong Jr., Western Samar Reps. Edgar Sarmiento and Sharee Tan, Leyte Reps. Lucy Torres-Gomez, Carl Cari, and Vicente Veloso, Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, Eastern Samar Rep. Maria Fe Abunda, Biliran Rep. Gerardo Espina Jr., and Tingog Party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez.
“We welcome our returning kabugtu-an and kaigsoonan to Samar and Leyte with open arms. We share their grief and agony in getting stranded away from their loved ones in these difficult times. They deserve the warm embrace of their families and their communities,” they said.
“However, we firmly believe that it is the duty of government to ensure that these constituents of ours are free from coronavirus infection and other diseases before they are allowed to rejoin their family members. Their freedom from Covid-19 infection means that their loved ones are free from harm, too,” they added.
The lawmakers cited the Department of Health (DOH) regional director, Dr. Minerva Molon, who said that the 68 new cases reported on June 13 brought the number of confirmed cases in Eastern Visayas to 200.
“Official records show that the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases was observed shortly after the national government implemented its Hatid Probinsya program,” they said.
“Most of those who tested positive were returning residents, who were previously locally stranded in Metro Manila for days. Some were overseas Filipino workers who also got stranded in Metro Manila after returning home from work abroad,” they added.
They also urged the national government to support the funding ramp-up for state programs, projects, and activities related to the Covid-19 response in the region. These include efforts to ensure availability of medical supplies and essential kits; allocate funding for municipal quarantine centers; reinforce contact tracing capability; intensify telehealth medicine and use of the digital platform for health services; prepare an integrated regional response plan; and funding for healthcare-related and other essential infrastructure projects, among others.