Even if it takes using its own money, the city government here will continue receiving Locally-Stranded Individuals (LSIs) and Returning Overseas Filipino Workers (ROFs) coming in at the Davao International Airport (DIA).
Mayor Sara Z. Duterte made the assurance in a recent radio interview amid the growing number of local government units (LGUs) in Mindanao that are asking for moratorium on accepting LSIs and ROFs over concerns of rising coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases.
Beyond the humane aspect, Mayor Sara underscored the importance of preparing the city to adapt to the “new normal,” which calls for returning the area’s economic and social life to normalcy even if a vaccine or a cure for Covid-19 remains out of reach.
“Reopening the city amid the Covid-19 crisis will help the people embrace life under the new normal,” she said in the dialect during a recent interview with the city-run Davao City Disaster Radio.
According to Mayor Sara, the city’s gradual reopening will start with the full resumption of the DIA, although she did not cite a specific timeline.
“If we receive LSIs and ROFs today, we still receive them tomorrow. So what we are trying to do is reopen city to go back to as normal as possible the life of the people. With the ‘Covid environment’, we have to establish control and management system in receiving LSIs and ROFs so that in the end, everything will go back to normal, and that means full resumption of commercial flights,” Mayor Sara said.
Duterte, however, made it clear that the government will not sacrifice public health as it makes strides for the new normal.
While the city received PHP6 million funding under the Bayanihan Heal As One Act, she said the local government is prepared to spend its own money to keep residents and even non-residents safe from the virus.
For instance, the local government late last week made the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test―the “gold standard” diagnostic for Covid-19―free for arriving passengers at the DIA whose similar tests from their places of origin had already lapsed, or those who failed to take the test at all.
Implemented on July 22, the RT-PCR requirement sought to ensure that returning residents at DIA–Mindanao’s biggest airport–are free from the virus.
The rule was enforced after data from the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit showed that the highest confirmed Covid-19 cases in Davao City consisted of air travelers from Manila and Cebu.
City Tourism chief Generose Tecson told the Philippine News Agency that the flights bringing home LSIs and ROFs “are earlier now and the passenger list is given about three hours before the flight.”
Ron Lionel Bartolome, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA director for Region 11, said the agency has so far assisted at least 4,681 ROFs as of July 21, majority of whom are Davao City residents.
Others, Bartolome said, are residents of Davao Region’s five provinces and other Mindanao regions such as Cotabato and Caraga.
He said OWWA-11 is eyeing to assist a total of 50,000 ROFs under the government’s “Hatid Tulong” program.
Data from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) showed that as of July 17, the program has assisted a total of 87,708 ROFs in Metro Manila back to their provinces. (PNA)