Phil gov’t prioritizes sending overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs) home

MANILA – Before deciding on when to allow provincial buses to operate, the government will have to prioritize sending home repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs), Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark following calls to allow provincial buses to resume operations with several bus drivers and operators losing a source of income due to the government’s directive to limit public transportation.

PROVINCE BOUND. Locally stranded individuals (LSIs) bound for Cebu and Iloilo get on board the BRP Davao Del Sur at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor on Sunday (June 21, 2020). Malacañang on Tuesday (June 23) said LSIs and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be sent to their respective provinces before deciding on when to allow provincial buses to operate. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office)

Roque said provincial buses will “eventually” be allowed to ply the roads once there are no longer any OFW or LSI stuck in Metro Manila.

“Eventually, ia-allow po natin iyan; pero ngayon nga po ang pangunahing problema natin sa mga stranded individuals, sa mga OFW, ayaw tanggapin ng iba’t ibang mga probinsiya (Eventually, we would allow them; but as of now our main problem are the stranded individuals and OFWs which provinces don’t want to accept),” he said in a virtual presser.

He warned that allowing provincial buses would cause more harm than good since local governments were already refusing to accept OFWs and LSIs to begin with, especially those who have yet to undergo testing for coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

“Can you imagine kapag mayroon na tayong provincial bus kung paano pang… kung gaano mangyayari, kung gaano po iyong mga objections ng mga local government units (if had provincial buses…what would happen if local government units have objections on accepting passengers),” he said.

He said it is best to wait until all OFWs and LSIs have been sent to their respective hometowns before allowing provincial buses on the roads again.

“Sa tingin ko po, hintayin muna natin mag-improve ang ating Covid situation nang sa ganoon ay magkaroon din po ng kumpiyansa iyong mga probinsiya na tanggapin ang mga papunta sa kanilang mga jurisdictions (I think let us wait for the Covid situation to improve so that provinces will also be confident enough to accept them in their respective jurisdictions),” he said.

Earlier, Roque said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) are closely studying the possibility of allowing provincial buses to resume operations.

He believed that there were no lapses done in the process of sending LSIs back to their respective hometowns amid lawmakers’ calls for the review of the government’s Hatid Probinsya (Hatid Tulong) program.

The problem lies not in lapses in ferrying LSIs back home, but the lack of available polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits, he added.

Around eight million PCR test kits are expected to arrive to augment the existing number of test kits which, he said, would help LGUs be better prepared to accept LSIs.

400 buses from Singson

In a public address late Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte bared that Narvacan, Ilocos Sur Mayor Luis “Chavit” Singson offered 400 buses to help OFWs and LSIs to their hometowns.

Singson’s family owns the bus firm Partas Transportation Co. Inc.

“Nagmamagandang-loob ‘yung tao (The person is making a kind gesture). He’s offering 400 buses at the disposal of the Task Force,” he said.

Duterte announced that bus deployment in Visayas is scheduled on July 4 in Mindanao and July 5 in Visayas.

He also appealed to local officials to accept returning OFWs and LSIs

“Ang pakiusap lang (My appeal is), just like your statement now na tanggapin lang ‘yung mga LGUs ng — tanggapin nila ‘yung mga tao, pakiusap (just accept the LGUs-accept the people, I am asking you),” he said.

He said local governments that refused OFWs and LSIs would run into “a gamut of so many problems.”

“They cannot refuse to accept a Filipino. You cannot do that, deny the Filipino to go home? Mahirap ‘yan (That’s difficult),” he said. (PNA)

By Azer Parrocha