BY CARLA P. GOMEZ
The National Task Force against COVID-19 has suspended the repatriation of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) to Negros Occidental, Bacolod City and Iloilo City for two weeks, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, NTF chairperson, said.
The memorandum received by the Negros Occidental and Bacolod City governments during the weekend said the 14-day temporary suspension was to start on Saturday (August 8).
Lorenzana said the NTF issued the suspension in response to the requests of the Western Visayas Regional Inter-Agency Task Force and Regional Task Force for COVID-19.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said the League of Provinces of the Philippines requested for a two-week moratorium on the return of LSIs per month because quarantine facilities are overwhelmed.
“We thank the NTF and RIATF for their understanding,” he said.
Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia also thanked the NTF for approving the city’s request for a two-week moratorium on the repatriation of LSIs and ROFs.
Leonardia said, “We welcome this approval as this will give us some breathing space at a time when our positive cases are rapidly increasing and we are implementing more stringent measures to contain the spread. We are thankful that our aggressive approach to the various bodies handling COVID-19 management has paid off.”
A similar request was also made for a moratorium on the return of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) because hotel rooms are full, Lacson said.
However, the request for a moratorium on the return of OFWs was denied by the NTF, and instead, settled for LSIs and ROFs, the governor said.
Zephard Caelian, Negros Occidental Provincial Disaster Management Program Division head, said there are so many OFWs who returned to Negros Occidental who tested positive for COVID-19 that quarantine facilities in the province are already full.
Late night and early morning sweeper flights last week continued to arrive at the Bacolod Silay Airport from Manila carrying Negros and Bacolod OFWs.*