Ormoc City allegedly told to receive ‘Balik Probinsya’ beneficiaries ‘untested’ for COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez on Monday lamented how they were allegedly told by the national government to receive folks who availed the Balik Probinsya program that are “undocumented and untested” for the coronavirus.
In a Facebook post, Gomez said he received a text from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) telling him to accept beneficiaries even without protocols against COVID-19.
“DILG, NHA [National Housing Authority], OWWA, what happened to all the protocols that you guys are trying to formulate for returning residents?!!!” Gomez said.
“I just would like to share what is happening right now about this Balik Probinsya program. This morning the DILG regional office and OWWA texted, ‘texted,’ us informing us that there are 3 planes arriving in Tacloban and telling us to receive them without following Covid protocols, undocumented and untested,” he added.
Gomez stressed they were able to keep their city free from the coronavirus due to “strict border controls and implementation of health protocols.”
“Then here comes a TEXT from the National government agencies telling us that there are repatriates coming in our city and telling us to accept them?!” Gomez said.
“It only takes one infected person to get to our city to infect a hundred innocent people [because] of carelessness from the national government agencies. Where is the National Task Force Covid Shield and the IATF in all of these?!!!” he further said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier institutionalized the Balik Probinsya program which seeks to decongest Metro Manila and promote more robust regional development.
When sought for reaction, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the people being pertained to in Gomez’s post were not part of the Balik Probinsya Program but are OFWs who wanted to go home.
“First, I don’t know if that post really came from Mayor Gomez hence it has to be validated. And maybe he was misinformed and there are already many official announcements on this,” Año said in a Viber message to INQUIRER.net.
“Second, these OFWs are not part of Balik Probinsya Program. They are Filipinos just wanting to go home and be with their families. All these 24,000 OFWs were tested negative already using the PCR test. All of them have certificate of 14 days quarantine. All protocols are followed,” he added.
Duterte earlier ordered government agencies to bring OFWs who are still stuck in quarantine facilities home within a week.
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they are eyeing to send the 24,000 OFWs home to their provinces within the next three days.
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