Rep. Martin lauds probe on Leyte COVID-19 spike

The first batch of individuals stranded in Metro Manila assisted by the national government arrive in Palo, Leyte in this May 21, 2020 photo. Photo courtesy of Department of Agriculture 8

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Thursday welcomed the order of the National Task Force against COVID 19 (NTF) to investigate the spike of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) in Leyte.

Romualdez,  co-chairperson of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, lauded the strong commitment of Interior Sec. Eduardo Año, vice-chair of the NTF, and NTF chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. to help contain the surge of COVID-19 cases in Leyte.

“I join the people of Leyte in applauding the decision of the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) to send two of its top officials to Tacloban to probe the recent spike of coronavirus disease-19 in our province,” said Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules.

Romualdez added that “the scheduled visit of NTF chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, NTF vice-chair, in Tacloban will surely help assuage the fears of my kabugtu-an and kaigsoonan over the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in Leyte and Eastern Visayas.”

“The quick response of Secretaries Año and Galvez to our appeal for assistance is a clear manifestation that the national government is always ready to rush to the aid of its people in times of need,” said Romualdez.

“We hope that the political leaders and people of Leyte will extend all assistance that Secretaries Año and Galvez may need to make sure that their mission in the province will be a success,” Romualdez appealed.

“I also enjoin my provincemates to cooperate with local authorities as we all embark on a perilous journey to contain the spread of this deadly virus in our region. With the help of everybody, I have no doubt that we shall succeed,” Romualdez added.

Last Sunday, Romualdez hailed  the assurance made by Galvez to improve health protocols under the “Hatid Probinsya” program following concerns that it contributed to the spike of new infections in some parts of the country.

The Hatid Probinsya program is a short-term humanitarian effort to assist locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Metro Manila back to their home provinces due to limited transportation system.

Earlier, Romualdez led a group of at least 12 lawmakers from Eastern Visayas who signed a joint statement urging the government to review the Hatid Probinsya program following the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Eastern Visayas during the past few days.

They pointed out that responsible national government agencies should ensure that returning residents are cleared of any symptoms and have been tested negative for COVID-19 using the real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test for the safety of the returning residents and their loved ones.

Responding to their appeal, Galvez said the NTF COVID-19 will temporarily regulate the “Hatid Probinsya” following the increase of new COVID-19 infections in Eastern Visayas (Region 8) and Lanao del Sur, part of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Romualdez reiterated his group’s support to the program welcoming the return of their “kababayan” to Samar and Leyte “with open arms.”

“We share their grief and agony in getting stranded away from their loved ones in these difficult times. They deserve the warm embrace of their families and their communities,” the Region VIII representatives said in a joint statement.

“However, we firmly believe that it is the duty of government to ensure that these constituents of ours are free from coronavirus infection and other diseases before they are allowed to rejoin their family members. Their freedom from COVID-19 infection means that their loved ones are free from harm, too,” they said.

The lawmakers also called on the Department of Health (DoH) to extend support to, and beef up the capabilities of, its regional office in Eastern Visayas in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 disease in Leyte and Samar provinces.