The government’s “Hatid Tulong” program has facilitated the return of 28,086 locally stranded individuals to their respective provinces and cities in Western Visayas as of Friday.
Filipino workers, students, local or foreign tourists, individuals stranded in various localities while in transit, and other stranded individuals fall within the category of LSIs based on the operational guidelines on their management.
Christian M. Nagaynay, assistant chief of the local government capability development division of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) 6 (Western Visayas) and focal person for LSIs, said they were trying to reconcile the data, given the observation that some of those who arrived were not LSIs but beneficiaries of the “Balik Probinsya” program.
Some brought with them big travel bags and even their furniture, Nagaynay said.
“Our struggle is really to classify them if really they are LSIs,” he said in a phone interview on Friday, adding that they were anticipating signed guidelines amending the National Task Force (NTF) Covid-19 Order 2020-02 on the management of LSIs.
Currently, an individual who can secure a medical certificate and travel authority and has means to travel is tagged as an LSI.
“Prior to that, if you are in Manila or in a place where you reside(d) before March 16, supposedly you are not an LSI,” Nagaynay said, adding that they have received the guidelines of the “Balik Probinsya” program on Tuesday.
However, it is not in effect because the DILG still has to talk with different agencies.
He said “Balik Probinsya” is a multi-agency approach and a long-term strategy of the government.
Based on the real-time monitoring of the arrival of LSIs, the province of Antique has the highest number with 7,236, followed by Negros Occidental with 5,405.
Iloilo City and Bacolod City, on the other hand, have 1,066 LSIs each; Aklan has 3, 836; Capiz, 4,844; Guimaras, 479; and Iloilo province, 4,154.
Upon their arrival in the region, LSIs undergo a 14-day quarantine in an isolation facility and a swab test.
As of July 22, the region has 571 LGU-identified isolation facilities with a total bed capacity of 13,130.
Nagaynay said the conduct of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test is not mandatory, based on the guidelines, but it forms part of the region’s local health protocol.
“Our guidelines (are) in compliance with National Task Force Order 2020-02 (management of LSI). In terms of a different approach, (the) local health protocol of local government units varies but still in due compliance with the requirements of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force),” he added.
A two-week moratorium was implemented since June 28, following the high incidence of Covid-19 infections among LSIs.
Available data from the Department of Health’s Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) 6 showed that as of July 20, some 456 LSIs have tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
However, since the lifting of the moratorium on July 15, several voyages have already arrived in the region via 2Go vessels.
On July 20, the St. Michael The Archangel of the 2Go shipping brought in 314 LSIs and five authorized persons outside of residence (APOR).
Data from the Regional Task Force showed that as of July 22, the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) confirmed and registered 550 LSIs from Western Visayas to be included in the second-wave two-day (July 25-26) grand send-off of the “Hatid Tulong” in Manila. (PNA)