PARANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 30 July) – Fifty of the 405 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) from the Bangsamoro region will finally be reunited with their loved ones almost a month after their departure from Manila marked by hitches in the arrangements for their travel.
The Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces used Navy boats to transport home the stranded residents on Wednesday.
Bangsamoro spokesperson and Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said the remaining LSIs will be sent to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi via commercial vessels if the Navy can no longer provide more vessels.
The LSIs left Manila on July 4 under the national government’s “Hatid Tulong Program”. They boarded a 2Go vessel but they were made to disembark on July 7 in Cagayan de Oro City instead of Zamboanga City, which is nearer to their Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, their home provinces.
The Presidential Management Staff which oversees the program reasoned that the ship needed to return immediately to Manila and the cargoes had to be unloaded in Cagayan De Oro.
This prompted Bangsamoro officials to send 17 buses to fetch the LSIs in Cagayan de Oro and bring them to isolation facilities in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao for a 14-day quarantine.
One hundred twenty of the LSis tested positive of Covid-19 based on the results of the swab tests done upon their arrival in Maguidanao on July 10.
The 50 LSIs who were sent home have been cleared of the disease after the quarantine.
During the sendoff ceremonies on Wednesday, Minister Raissa Jajurie of the region’s Ministry of Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) said they wanted the LSIs to be billeted in a hotel in Cotabato City or nearby areas but no hotels were open to accept them.
“Sorry for whatever inconvenience, we really did our best to make your stay here comfortable, what is important now is you are free from the disease and homebound to be with your families,” Jajurie said.
She added the regional government shouldered their food, accommodation and medication.
MSWD and BARMM-Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence provided each LSI cash assistance of P5,000, hygiene kits and relief goods including 25 kilos of rice.
Jaime Sangcaan, a resident of Barangay Guanan, Maluso, Basilan said he could not forget the Bangsamoro officials who took care of them after the boat they took from Manila refused to bring them to Zamboanga City.
Sangcaan, a father of seven, had been in Manila as a construction worker for two weeks when the pandemic hit the country, leaving him jobless. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)