First batch of 'Balik Probinsya' enrollees arrives in Leyte

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CNN Philippines (Metro Manila, May 22) — The first group of participants of the "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa" program has arrived in Leyte on Thursday night.

"Maayos naman ang pagdating, very happy. Happy sila nakarating dito, happy rin kami na finally nabawasan natin ang mga kababayan namin sa Leyte na nagdurusa, no," said Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla in a Laging Handa virtual press briefing on Friday.

[Translation: Their arrival was orderly, (they were) very happy. They're happy to have arrived here. We're also happy because finally, we have reduced the number of suffering Leyte residents.]

Petilla said the more than one hundred returnees underwent disinfection, interviews, and swab tests for COVID-19 upon arrival. They were then fetched by vehicles from their respective municipalities.

Swab samples will be sent to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center for confirmatory testing, according to an official of the Leyte Provincial Health Office.

"Ang kailangan muna natin talaga ngayon muna is mahintay natin muna lumabas muna ang resulta ng swab testing na ginawa before we can really start implementing ang mga livelihood assistance sa kanila," said Petilla. "[S]iguraduhin muna natin ang kalusugan, no. Ready na naman ang mga ano natin, national agencies na mag-extend din ng tulong."

[Translation: What we need now is to wait first for the results of the swab testing to come out before we can really start implementing livelihood assistance for them. Let us ensure their health first. Our national agencies are ready to extend assistance.]

The returnees will also be subjected to health protocols in their home municipalities, the official added.

Aside from Leyte, provinces participating in the pilot run of “Balik Probinsya” include Camarines Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Pangasinan, Quirino and Marinduque.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the program earlier this month in a bid to decongest Metro Manila and promote growth among regions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Program participants will also be provided vouchers and benefits based on the livelihood they plan to pursue in order to support themselves and their families financially in the provinces.

Stringer Wil Mark Amazona contributed to this report.