The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) ordered on Thursday the indefinite suspension of the repatriation for local stranded residents (LSI) and arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
The decision was reached in the wake of a sudden spike of COVID-19 cases in several provinces, including Palawan and Puerto Princesa City, since the program began early this month.
“Napakinggan po natin ang mga reklamo ng mga mayors, kaya pansamantala sinuspinde muna natin yung mga biyahe ng mga LSI at ROF,” said Roque during Friday’s Laging Handa press briefing.
Palawan, for its part, saw a rapid surge of COVID-19 active cases since it began receiving returning residents and OFWs on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte to clear Manila of stranded individuals during the nationwide lockdown.
Of Palawan’s total of 20 active COVID-19 cases, 12 have been LSIs and ROFs. Puerto Princesa City and several municipalities were also pressed to accommodate each returning resident in government quarantine facilities for a 2-week mandatory isolation.
Provincial Information Office (PIO) chief Winston Arzaga confirmed Friday afternoon that the provincial government will be halting its own repatriation of stranded Palawan locals until further notice.
“If that is the new policy, then yes, suspended. Lahat ng mga biyahe suspended muna until further notice,” Arzaga told Palawan News.
Arzaga further clarified that financial assistance would still be given to those still unable to return.
“The provincial government will continue to help them. That’s what we have been doing. We are sending money to them. That will be the option. Stay where they are, and the government will give assistance,” Arzaga added.
The Eastern Visayas has topped the provinces with COVID-19 positive cases from its returnees, recording a total of 333 coronavirus cases. A majority of the new cases were in Southern Leyte, which confirmed 26 new cases. The towns of Tomas Oppus and Hinungan, and Maasin City recorded their first cases.
In Leyte province, most of its 135 COVID-19 cases also involved returning residents and overseas workers.
Based on reports, 106 (of the total 240) are active cases. One-hundred and three of these are repatriated OFWs and LSIs; two are active cases from Iloilo province and one from Iloilo City.
In Negros Occidental, Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson also attributed the rise of COVID-19 cases in the province to the recent influx of repatriated OFWs and returning residents. As of June 14, Negros Occidental and Bacolod City recorded 22 cases each.
(With reports from Patricia Laririt, Romar Miranda, Jeshyl Guiroy, and Jane Matulac)