Senator Christopher “Bong” Go is reminding the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Council to immediately assess and validate applicants who wish to avail of the program and ensure that health protocols are followed as well as proper coordination with receiving local government units are conducted in the upcoming roll out of the next batches of the BP2 program.
“Tulungan po lahat ng gusto nang bumalik sa kanilang probinsya. Marami nang nadala dito sa Maynila dahil sa COVID-19. Pero wala pong pilitan ito. Sa mga gustong lumipat na sa probinsya, sisiguraduhin ng gobyerno na matutulungan kayo magsimulang muli ng may bagong pag-asa at mas magandang hinaharap na buhay,” Go explained.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and as the proponent of the BP2 Program, Go urged concerned agencies involved in the implementation to ensure that health protocols are strictly complied with.
“Sundin lang po ang tamang proseso. Tutulungan po kayo ng gobyerno na magsimula muli sa paraan na ligtas at makakabuti sa inyo at sa komunidad na inyong babalikan,” Go said.
“Dapat po may health certification bago umalis at dapat rin ay siguraduhing handa ang LGU na tatanggap sa kanila. Kailangan tulungan ng national government ang mga lokalidad na may kapasidad na maalagaan ang mga babalik para makapagsimula muli ng kabuhayan at may mga mekanismong nakahanda kung sakaling may magkasakit,” he added.
On Thursday, BP2 Council Executive Director and National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr. announced the second batch shall begin departing starting June 11.
In a virtual public briefing, Escalada reassured there is ongoing coordination between the council and concerned local government units to ensure the safe transfer of people. Assessments were swiftly initiated after the transfer of the first batch was completed. The council, he said, was careful to consider the readiness of the local governments, particularly their testing capacity.
“In courtesy to the governors and the mayors, we would highly recommend close coordination as well as recognizing their capacity to treat and test their own constituents. The numbers are still fluid. The targets will be there for us to be able to help us plan the next roll out,” Escalada said.
Validated and assessed beneficiaries from Metro Manila are set to return to various provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao in the coming weeks, namely Leyte, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Camarines Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Lanao del Norte.
Escalada assured that coordination has been conducted with concerned LGUs for the preparation of the next batch of beneficiaries and health protocols are in place.
“We added another health protocol of Anti Body Rapid Test and allocation for test kits has been made. This is aside from the standard medical clearance by the local health officer and certificate of quarantine,” Escalada said.
Weeks ago, the government initiated the pilot roll out of the BP2 program. According to Escalada, Leyte was chosen by the BP2 council because the provincial government expressed its readiness to support returning residents and also cited its capability to test, detect, isolate and treat anyone suspected or later confirmed of having COVID-19.
“Sinabi rin po niya na lahat ng mga beneficiaries na umalis noong May 20 pauwi ng Leyte ay nakapag-comply naman sa required health certification mula sa LGU at DOH. Pero dahil rin sa kaibahan ng sakit na COVID-19, hindi natin nakikita ang kalaban. Kahit yung mga nag-negative sa test, pwedeng maging positive pagkatapos ng ilang araw. No one can really tell,” Go said citing Escalada’s statements.
“This is why it is important that health protocols are followed and LGUs, as well as health facilities nationwide, are able to enhance their capabilities to test, trace and treat patients with COVID-19,” Go stressed further.
In addition, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also said that “agencies have their designated roles under the program, and these roles include the protocols during departure and arrival in the province of destination.”
Medialdea said that returnees in the pilot roll out have been cleared by the DOH to depart NCR and, to further ensure health safety upon arrival, part of the protocols was the testing in the destination.
“Just to underscore, the council has been careful in ensuring that returnees under the Balik Probinsya program undergo the protocols from departure to the arrival phase, whether through the member-agencies or in coordination with the LGUs,” Medialdea added in past statements.
Senator Go further reminded implementers that qualified beneficiaries must undergo stringent testing protocols prior to their departure. They must be interviewed for any symptom and possible exposure to high-risk places in Metro Manila and people positive for COVID-19.
“This plan will only be successful if we always follow health protocols to ensure the people’s safe travel and protection from the virus,” he stressed.
The BP2 program, proposed by Sen. Go and now institutionalized by Executive Order 114 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, aims to decongest Metro Manila by relocating residents, particularly informal settler families, to the provinces where they can be provided better assistance and livelihood opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 2020, the program has over 80,000 applications, mainly comprised of individuals travelling alone and families.
“Sa BP2, ang pangunahing layunin natin ay mabigyan sila ng mga oportunidad para umasenso, tulad ng maayos na trabaho, edukasyon, pabahay at suporta mula sa local government para makaahon sila sa kahirapan kung piliin nilang bumalik sa kanilang mga probinsya,” he explained.
Go and Escalada have clarified previously to the public that BP2 and Hatid Probinsya initiatives should not be confused with one another. The BP2 is a long-term program intended for the residents of Metro Manila who desire to return to their provinces. In contrast, Hatid Probinsya is an initiative to help overseas Filipino workers, students, tourists and locally stranded individuals to return home due to lack of public transport.
“Let us work together to stop the spread of this disease and, at the same time, help our countrymen and women recover from this crisis. Magtulungan at magbayanihan po tayo. As the President said, we want to give Filipinos hope of a better life in the provinces after the COVID-19 crisis,” Go said./Stacy Ang