MANILA - Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez on Tuesday appealed for coordination between government agencies facilitating the return of residents to their respective home provinces, and the Inter-Agency Task Force on the COVID-19 response.
“We have no problem accepting all these Balikbayan people. Of course, we want them back in our city. But hindi naman 'to leisure, hindi naman 'to pasyal eh. You know, we are in a pandemic, so we really have to be very, very careful,” Gomez said on ANC's Headstart.
“It is important for us to receive all these people documented so we will know where they are coming from, if they've been tested, if they had been quarantined,” he added.
Gomez said that of course, he wants the Balik Probinsya program introduced by Sen. Bong Go, and the OFW program of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to succeed.
But he stressed the need for the strict implementation of protocols to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Ormoc City, located on Leyte island and which has a population of more than 200,000, remains COVID-19 free.
On Monday, Gomez expressed frustration over the lack of proper coordination by the national government for the return of some residents, both that day on on Thursday last week.
Gomez said six arrived last week, around eight on Monday, and three others are expected Tuesday.
“We would like to accept them but there are certain protocols that need to be met,” he said, citing the need for returning residents to be tested from where they are coming from, and to be quarantined before leaving.
Returning residents from Cebu City, however, will not be accepted into Ormoc City yet due to the high incidence of coronavirus infections there, he added.
With the guidance of President Rodrigo Duterte for local government units to accept all returning residents, Gomez said all those who arrive without proofs of testing and completing 14-day quarantine will be sent directly to the city's quarantine facility.
“If they come in undocumented, untested, there is no proof that they’ve had quarantine, then they have to stay here in our quarantine area… There are beddings, food, water, and electricity and there is even internet for them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla aired the same sentiments about the lack of guidelines on the Balik Probinsya program.
“There is no set guidelines on how we accept them, what test do we demand,” he said.
Remulla said many OFWs have purchased homes in subdivisions located in the province.
“We don’t have a firm guidance on how to do it. We were just instructed to accept them. So, we will see what happens in the next few weeks,” Remulla said.