Visayan lawmakers seek review of 'Hatid Probinsya' program amid spike in COVID-19 case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — Lawmakers from Eastern Visayas on Thursday sought a review of the national government's "Hatid Probinsya" program amid rising cases of COVID-19 in the provinces.

Thirteen House members sounded the alarm on surge of cases in the provinces. They suggested a review of the health protocols being implemented for locally-stranded individuals returning to provinces, saying national government agencies should ensure that returning residents are cleared of any symptoms and have been tested negative for COVID-19 using swab tests.

"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 in a statement.

The statement was signed by House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Ruiz Daza, Leyte 2nd District Rep. Lolita Javier, Northern Samar 2nd District Rep. Jose Ong Jr., Leyte 3rd District Rep. Vicente S.E. Veloso III., Western Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, Leyte 4th District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, Western Samar 2nd District Rep. Sharee Ann Tan, Leyte 5th District Rep. Carl Nicolas Cari, Eastern Samar Lone District Rep. Maria Fe Abunda, Southern Leyte Lone District Rep. Roger Mercado, and Biliran Lone District Rep. Gerardo Espina Jr.

The lawmakers representing Eastern Visayas said their region has been coronavirus-free until the first case of COVID-19 was recorded last March 23 in Catarman, Northern Samar. The patient arrived in Catarman on March 4 after residing in San Juan City for about two months. There are a total of 197 confirmed cases in Region 8.

The solons said official records show that the rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases was observed shortly after the national government implemented its "Hatid Probinsya" program, with most of the cases attributed to returning residents or OFWs.

The government's "Hatid Probinsya" sends home individuals, tourists, students, and overseas Filipino workers stranded in Metro Manila due to lack of public transport during the community quarantine.

The program is ongoing for over 13,000 locally-stranded individuals in Luzon hoping to returning to their hometowns in Visayas and Mindanao. At least 53,000 people have been sent home earlier by the national government to their provinces.