National gov’t urged to improve Hatid Probinsiya Program

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 12 June) – Officials in Lanao del Sur on Thursday urged the national government to improve the system of sending home locally stranded individuals (LSIs) through the Hatid Probinisya Program to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The appeal came after the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lanao del Sur surged to 21 as of Thursday, after 11 returning residents tested positive of the virus.

Dr. Shalimar Rakiin, chief of Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City confirmed the new cases.

“We fear that we will suffer a breaking point in our facilities if more COVID-19 cases will surface from the returning residents,” Bangsamoro Parliament Member Zia Alonto Adiong said.

At least 158 residents of the Bangsamoro Region and neighboring areas arrive at the airport in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao aboard a sweeper flight arranged by the regional government on Friday, June 5, 2020. Most of the passengers were students from Baguio City and returning overseas workers who were stranded in Manila. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

“There is a need to improve the system, the process by which LSIs are required to undergo rapid test or swab test before the actual departure from the place of origin to the place of destination. The basic requirement is testing. Apparently, there is also a need to upgrade the testing capacity and the actual testing tool used before certification is issued prior to the departure,” Adiong said.

“On the other hand, many of the receiving local government units do not have adequate medical health facilities to serve the growing number of COVID-19 patients while doing the laborious task of contact-tracing,” he said.

He said all 21 cases were confined at the isolation facility in Barangay Sagonsongan, Marawi City and attended to by the Integrated Provincial Health Office and City Health Office.

He said they were still waiting for the results of more tests. “We hope there will be no more additional positive cases of COVID-19.”

“To put it simply, the provincial health system would be overwhelmed. The presence of COVID-19 in a particular area greatly threatens the local residents and its neighboring cities and provinces considering the high probability of infection this contagion brings while we lack the necessary tools and manpower to stop it from spreading. We do not want to exacerbate the situation, we want to control the contagion as much as we can,” he said.

“This is why we need your understanding and most importantly your cooperation. The national government needs to review and improve the Hatid Probinsiya Program and ensure that more than just sending our brothers and sisters back home, their loved ones who longed for their return would also be safe from the risk of infection,” he said.

Adiong, also the spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur Inter-Agency Task Force said the provincial government’s isolation facility has 40 beds while the Amai Pakpak Medical Center has 20 others.

Shiela Ganda of the task force said 1,238 residents who were stranded in Metro Manila have returned, including the 126 passengers who arrived on an Air Asia flight chartered by the provincial government last June 6.

Adiong said 37 residents returned via Cotabato City.

Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. also urged the national government to strengthen the health protocols for the Hatid Probinsiya Program.

He said he had informed Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office that the new positive cases involving returning residents surfaced after almost two months that the province recorded no infections. (Richel V. Umel and Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)