3,109 LSIs returning home to Caraga via ‘Hatid Tulong’

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 25 July) —  A total of 3,109 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) in Metro Manila who are residents of Caraga region will be sent home to their respective provinces on July 25 and 27 via 2GO vessels under the national government’s “Hatid Tulong” program.

Charito Plaza, Director General of Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), said their office organized the “Hatid Tulong” initiative for LSIs from Caraga region. She said the list has been submitted to the Presidential Management Staff (PMS).

“Hatid Tulong” is an initiative of the Office of the President and the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Caraga region’s COVID-19 statistics as of 24 July 2020. Before the locally stranded individuals and returning overseas Filipinos arrived in Caraga region when it was placed under Modified General Community Quarantine effective June 1, Caraga had only eight cases.

Some 1,378 LSIs will board the ship in Manila on July 25 while another 1,731 will leave Manila on July 27.

Of the 3,109 LSIs, 680 will return to their home province of Surigao del Sur, 637 to Agusan del Sur, 498 to Agusan del Norte, 480 to Surigao del Norte, 389 to Butuan City, 224 to Dinagat Island and 201 to Surigao City.

Plaza said LSIs  of Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Butuan City on board the 2GO vessel will dock in Cagayan de Oro City since the Nasipit seaport in Agusan del Norte has technical problems. Those going home to Surigao City, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Island will disembark at the Lipata seaport in Surigao City.

PEZA and the respective local government units (LGUs) in the region have agreed that the latter will fetch their LSIs where their boats will dock.

In Manila, the LSIs are subjected to rapid diagnostic tests.  Those who test negative, she said, will be allowed to go home while those who test positive will stay in Manila for quarantine.

Rapid tests are not reliable to determine if one has COVID-19. The gold standard for COVID-19 testing is the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction test.

Caraga had earlier sought and was granted a moratorium on arrival of LSIs from June 22 to July 4 following a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases from only eight on June 3 to 87 on June 22.

As of July 24, Caraga’s number of cases had remained at 245: 51 in Agusan del Norte, 55 in  Butuan City, seven in Cabadbaran City;  27 in Agusan del Sur, four in Bayugan City; 65 in Surigao del Norte, 10 in Surigao City; 16 in Surigao del Sur, nine in Bislig City and one in Tandag City; and zero in the province of  Dinagat Islands. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)