HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez yesterday hailed the assurance made by National Task Force on coronavirus disease (NTF COVID-19) chief implementer Secrta Carlito Galvez Jr. 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.
“This is a welcome development in our defeat COVID-19 campaign. I thank Sec. Galvez for acting with dispatch in ensuring the safety of locally stranded individuals and all provinces in our country through improved health protocols,” said Romualdez, the co-chairperson of the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee (DCC).
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.
Last Thursday, 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 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 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.