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Go clarifies nature of 2 back-to-the-province programs.

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go today sought to clarify a confusion on the difference between the 'Hatid Tulong' initiative and the 'Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa' (BP2) program of the government which wanted to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection through the observance of strict health protocols.

"For the 'Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa' program, President Duterte has already signed the Executive Order (EO) creating a council composed of more than 17 departments. It has a short-term and long-term. 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," he said.

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, said that the BP2 Program is currently suspended to make way for the Hatid Tulong initiatives which assist stranded Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs).

"Sa kasalukuyan, suspendido po ito (BP2). Dahil inatasan ni Pangulong Duterte ang gobyerno na iuwi muna ang mga stranded tulad ng OFWs. Ayaw naman nating mag-mix itong dalawa,'' he explained. (The BP2 is suspended following instruction from the President that the stranded OFWs will be prioritized. We do not want the two to mix.)

In previous announcements, Go emphasized the differences of these initiatives, saying "Ang BP2 Program ay para sa mga taga Metro Manila na gustong mag-relocate sa kanilang mga probinsya pagkatapos ng krisis. Nakasaad sa EO 114 na may long-term at whole-of-nation approach ito na ang layunin ay i-decongest ang Metro Manila at mapabilis ang pag-unlad ng iba't ibang parte ng bansa.'' (The BP 2 Program is for the Metro Manila residents who want to be relocated to their respective provinces after the crisis. EO 114 has a long-term and whole-of-nation approach aiming to decongest Metro manila and hasten the progress in the different parts of the country.)

"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. (Hatid Tulong initiatives has a different objective for the OFWs, LSIs and other affected Filipinos who were stranded due to the community quarantine measures and they need to be assisted in going back to their provinces.)

Go also said that the government would only resume implementation of the BP2 Program once receiving local government units (LGUs) are ready to accept beneficiaries.

"Babalikan po natin ito kapag pwede nang mag-rollout at maaasikaso na ng LGUs ang lahat (ng nais bumalik),'' he said. (We will return to this once the concerned LGUs are already prepared to accept all the returnees.)

The senator from Davao also urged the Executive branch to conduct a thorough review of the implementation of the Hatid Tulong initiative.

"Since Hatid Tulong is a directive from the President, 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.'' he said.

Go also urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to look into unauthorized travels and unsanctioned initiatives reportedly conducted by various LGUs and groups that do not comply with health protocols.

"Dapat higpitan dahil delikado makahawa ito. Unahin natin ang kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino. 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. (It has to be strict because this is contagious. Let's prioritize the health of every Filipino. While the community quarantine measures were eased in some areas, we still need to be strict when it comes to the implementation of the guidelines for the travel to the provinces in order to avoid the further spread of the disease.)

As for the plight of stranded OFWs, Go explained that protocols are in place to ensure their safe repatriation and return to their provinces.

He mentioned that the OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) would help the government keep track of the whereabouts of returning OFWs.

"Patuloy ang pagtulong sa mga uuwing mga OFWs. Ayon sa bagong regulasyon ng IATF, lahat ng uuwing OFWs ay isasailalim sa PCR testing. Habang naghihintay sa result, dadalhin sila muna sa mga partner-hotels. Maximum of 5 days lang sila dapat doon, dapat labas kaagad ang kanilang resulta,'' he pointed out. (Assistance given to the returning OFWs will continue. Under the new guideline of the IATF, all the returning OFWS will have to undergo the PCR testing. While waiting for the result, they will be brought to the partner-hotels. They will stay there for a maximum of 5 days. The results have to be released immediately.)

The process was streamlined to prevent issues which emerged during the initial implementation of the COVID-19 repatriation program for OFWs.

"Nananawagan ako sa gobyerno, kung negative, tulungan agad makauwi. Kung hindi sila masundo ng kanilang kamag-anak, lalo na kung taga-Metro Manila lang sila at karatig na probinsya, meron pong binibigay ang gobyerno na libreng pagpapauwi. Direktiba po ito ng Pangulo na makabalik sila agad sa kanilang probinsya,'' he said. (I am calling on the government, if it is negative, they should be immediately sent home. If their relatives cannot fetch them, especially if they're residents of Metro Manila or the neighboring provinces, the government will provide them with free travel. This is the directive of the President so they could go back to their provinces the soonest possible time.)

Go emphasized that health and safety protocols must be strictly followed in facilitating their return to their provinces.

He also said that PhP2.5 billion worth of cash assistance has already been allotted for documented OFWs who are affected by the pandemic.

He, likewise, stated that he has also urged the government to provide assistance to undocumented OFWs.

CAPTION(S):

Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go (Office of Sen. Bong Go / MANILA BULLETIN)
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Title Annotation:National; Christopher Lawrence Go, 'Hatid Tulong' initiative and the 'Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa' program
Author:Casayuran, Mario
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 29, 2020
Words:1043
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