Go defends Balik Probinsya program after beneficiary tested positive for COVID-19

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2020 09:46 PM

Children get their temperature checked and hands sanitized before boarding the bus bound for Leyte during the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa” program ceremonial roll out held at the NHA compound in Quezon City, May 20, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA--Senator Christopher "Bong" Go on Thursday said the "Balik Probinsya" program beneficiary who tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) after going home to Leyte underwent health inspections before flying to the province.

The individual complied with the "required health certification" from the Department of Health and local government units before he was allowed to join the program, Go said in a statement.

"Lahat ng mga beneficiaries na umalis [ng Metro Manila] noong May 20 pauwi ng Leyte ay nakapag-comply naman sa required health certification mula sa LGU at DOH pero dahil rin sa kaibahan ng sakit na COVID-19, hindi natin nakikita ang kalaban," the senator said.

(Those who availed of Balik Probinsya left Metro Manila on May 20 for Leyte were certified healthy by the LGU and the DOH. We're dealing with a disease unlike anything we've seen before. It's an enemy we can't see.)

"Kahit 'yung mga nag-negative sa test, pwedeng maging positive pagkatapos ng ilang araw. No one can really tell." 

(Even those who tested negative can still test positive after a few days. No one can really tell.)

Go gave the statement after Baybay City Mayor Jose Carlos L. Cari said an individual who is part of the maiden trip of the Balik Probinsya program had to be isolated after he was confirmed to be a carrier of the highly contagious disease.

The senator urged local government units to help national agencies in implementing his Balik Probinsya program, which seeks to decongest the capital region, ease hospital workload in Metro Manila and limit transmissions in communities.

"The council has been careful in ensuring that returnees under the Balik Probinsya program undergo the protocols from departure to the arrival phase," Go said, noting that local governments in provinces should also be prepared to receive them..

"Let us work together to stop the spread of this disease, and at the same time, help our countrymen recover from this crisis. Magtulungan at magbayanihan po tayo (Let us help each other)."

Under Go's project, the government will provide housing, livelihood and other forms of assistance for Metro Manila residents who wish to relocate to the regions, but Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez was among mayors who aired his frustration over an alleged "lack of coordination" between national and local officials.

"This Balik Probinsya program that started last week, we were not informed of the people arriving. We were just surprised there was a bus already," he told ANC.

"We want full cooperation from these agencies. We can't accept people without documents. We've prepared so hard to keep our city COVID-free and then here comes the repatriates coming home. We don't know whether they're infected or not."

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Tuesday said Ormoc City was not given ample time to prepare for the arrival of Balik Probinsya beneficiaries, but described the incident as an "isolated" case.

"Ito ay biglaan kaya hindi sila naabisuhan ng tamang panahon," Año said in a virtual press briefing, noting that he has spoken with Gomez over the issue.

The DILG has instructed officials involved in the Balik Probinsya program to notify local governments about the arrivals at least 3 days before the trip to ensure that the receiving town or city is equipped with isolation and health facilities in case a beneficiary tests positive for the coronavirus, Año said.