KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato Province, July 13 (PIA) - More than 9,000 locally stranded individuals and returning overseas Filipinos have already come home to Cotabato Province through the local initiative "Sagip Stranded North Cotabatenos."
This number is expected to increase as Governor Nancy Catamco vows there is no letup in the efforts of the provincial government to bring home its residents who have been stuck in Metro Manila and other places in the country since the enforcement of lockdowns and the travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Data from the TF Sagid Secretariat indicated that as of July 9, a total of 9,050 straded individuals have already returned to Cotabato Province.
Of this number 410 are ROFs and 8,640 are LSIs.
The number is expected to top 10,000 this week with the arrival of more LSIs through four flights chartered by the provincial government, tentatively scheduled from July 14 to July 17.
"As a mother, I feel for those who were stranded. Many of them texted me that they already have nothing to eat, others have lost their jobs," Gov. Catamco told Philippine Information Agency in an interview. These concerns of her compatriots, she said, prompted her to order their registration and repatriation.
"At first there were resistance. But this is what I always say: It is better that they are here and are being isolated under proper protocols. Here, we can take care of them and they are close to their families. If we leave them where they are they might come home as ashes because they will be cremated if they tested positive and die (from COVID-19). We would rather spend to take care of them than pay to bring home the dead," Catamco emphasized.
On April 29, while Metro Manila and many parts of the country were in enhanced community quarantine, Gov. Catamco issued Eecutive Order No. 60 creating the Task Force Sagip Stranded North Cotabatenos whose functions include "to assist, look for, to find out, to identify, and to residents on Cotabato Province who intend to go home but are stranded in various places in the Philippines due to the implementation of safety measures and other protocols againts COVID-19."
The efforts included chartering three flights from Metro Manila and Cebu.
Gov. Catamco said that the provincial government has already spent about P6 million only for the chartered planes, including the four flights scheduled this week.
Of the 9,050 repatriates, two have tested positive; one frontliner also tested prositive for COVID-19. These cases comprised only about 0.03 percent of the total arrival.
The governor attributed this success to the strict implementation of health protocols such as obligatory 14-day quarantine at home or at local government unit-designated facility.
Catamco appealed to LSIs and ROFs to help the provincial government in this initiative by respecting and strictly following the health protocols imposed for their personal, their family's, and their community's safety. (DED-PIA 12 with report from the Provincial Government of Cotabato)