Northern Samar MDRRMO appeals for improvement of gov't repatriation programs, postponement of Balik Probinsya program

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 31) — Disaster officials from Northern Samar have asked the government to improve the program meant to return people to their homes, as well as the postponement of the Balik Probinsya program.

On May 29, an open letter signed by 20 out of the 24 officers of the province's municipal disaster risk reduction and management office (MDRRMO) said they were appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte and the IATF for the "immediate improvement of the coordination mechanisms in the management of returning OFW (ROFW) and LSIs (locally stranded individuals), as well as the postponement of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program (BP2)."

They said recent events have undermined their "previous and ongoing efforts to keep our respective municipalities Covid-19 free."

They said there was poor coordination from the national to the inter-regional and inter-provincial level in the implementation of the program.

Disaster officers said should these issues continue to be unresolved, they are afraid that it would result in the spread of COVID-19 in virus-free areas and waste the efforts done over the previous months.

They added they already raised this concern to their respective municipal mayors and to the provincial government through the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

“But we have still decided to write this letter so that you may hear our collective voice, and with the belief that this may also echo the sentiments of our counterparts in other provinces,” the letter added.

The officers also gave recommendations for the better implementation of the program; among these are providing RT-PCR tests to those coming from the national capital region and other areas with confirmed cases, and indicating a negative test result in medical clearances.

In the appeal to postpone the BP2, the MDRRMO officers in Northern Samar said this should be implemented when the vaccine becomes available “at least at the provincial level.”

“Though we affirm the noble intentions of the program, we firmly believe that the proper timing for its implementation is when we have the COVID-19 crisis clearly under control — and definitely that is not now,” they said.

Stringer Wilmark Amazona contributed to this report.