BY NANETTE GUADALQUIVER
Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia emphasized anew the importance of retaining the authority of local government units (LGUs) in imposing their health protocols on arriving locally stranded individuals (LSIs) amid the continuing threat of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Leonardia, national president of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), raised the concern during Monday’s virtual meeting of top officers of the Union of the Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) with Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the National Policy Against Covid-19, and concerned Cabinet officials, including Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“It’s all about coordination,” he said after the meeting discussed the protocols of managing the arrival of LSIs in their respective cities, municipalities, and provinces.
Leonardia supported the suggestion of the LGUs to coordinate with both the regional and national Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) for efficiency and accessibility.
He said Año himself adheres to the points he raised that LGUs must take an extra mile in initiating protocols for returning LSIs.
In Bacolod, Section 2 of Executive Order 44, series of 2020, provides that all LSIs arriving from Manila, Cebu, and other high-risk areas would be required to submit to a mandatory reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test administered by licensed health personnel of the City Health Office at the soonest possible time upon arrival.
All LSIs will then be endorsed to the barangay captain or the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team.
They will be required to undergo monitored home quarantine until their test results come out negative but the LSI may opt to undergo quarantine at the city-designated facility until his or her RT-PCR test result comes out negative.
As of Monday afternoon, Bacolod had 286 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including seven deaths.
There are currently 210 active cases and 69 recoveries.
Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo said yesterday that government will assist LSIs seeking to return to their respective provinces with a “new approach” in a bid to tighten protocols on social distancing.
Encabo, lead convenor of the program, said the government will no longer be conducting grand send-offs of LSIs back to their provinces.
“We will be having a new approach and preparation because, in our next send-off, there will only be packeted or clustered send-offs,” he said, adding that stringent health measures will be observed.
Encabo said the technical working group of the Hatid Tulong program has developed this new approach to ramp up containment measures against the local transmission of Covid-19 among beneficiaries and facilitators.
The Hatid Tulong program earlier drew criticism over the supposed lack of physical distancing after stranded individuals flocked to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on July 25 to 26, waiting for their turn in the government-sponsored trips.
Encabo assured the public that the TWG will implement the program with a more comprehensive and careful plan in the next send-offs.
As the government boosted efforts to assist LSIs amid the pandemic, Encabo reported that some 6,583 LSIs were “successfully dispatched” to their provinces on July 26 to 27.*PNA