South Cotabato braces for arrival of 554 stranded persons from Manila

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 27 July) – Preparations are in place for the arrival here late Monday or early Tuesday of at least 554 locally-stranded individuals (LSI) from Metro Manila under the second batch of the national government’s “Hatid Tulong” program.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., head of the Integrated Provincial Health Office of South Cotabato, said they have adopted stringent control measures to facilitate the proper handling of the returning LSIs amid the continuing threats posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

He said the city was designated as one of the two drop-off points for LSIs coming from Region 12 (Soccsksargen) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

At least 34 Partas Bus Line units carrying 791 passengers from the two regions left the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila last Saturday for the three-day land travel facilitated by Hatid Tulong.

At least 554 passengers aboard 23 buses are bound for this city, with 256 coming from South Cotabato, 119 from Sultan Kudarat, 110 from General Santos City and 69 from Sarangani.

The remaining 237 LSIs in 11 buses will be dropped off in Kidapawan City. A total of 211 are from North Cotabato, 18 from Maguindanao and eight from Cotabato City.

As of Monday morning, the Presidential Management Staff, which coordinates the rollout of Hatid Tulong, said the group has already reached the Leyte area.

All passengers, who had tested negative for COVID-19 in rapid antibody screening, received food packs and cash assistance of PHP2,000 each.

Aturdido said they assigned a portion of the Jaycee Avenue and the South Cotabato Sports Complex here, which were already cordoned off on Monday morning, as arrival area.

“Our incident management team will already be on standby starting 1 p.m. as they might be arriving tonight,” he said in a radio interview.

The official said the buses and passengers will undergo decontamination upon arrival and will be segregated per province and city in assigned tents for proper processing and screening.

He said those from the province will be brought to the sports complex’s tennis court for the necessary processes before their turnover to their respective local governments.

Aturdido said meal packs will be provided to all arriving passengers as ordered by South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr.

He said the repatriates from South Cotabato will immediately be transferred to the designated isolation facilities for the mandatory 14-day quarantine and undergo rapid antibody screening.

Those who will manifest possible symptoms of COVID-19 will be isolated and subjected to confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, he said.

“If our supplies will allow, we’re considering subjecting everyone to a PCR test,” Aturdido said.

He added that the move was aimed to immediately detect, treat and contain any possible case of COVID-19 among the repatriates. (MindaNews)