It is clear: We wasted both the resources and sacrifices in more than 100 days lockdown due to the “Balik Probinsiya” and “Hatid Probinsiya” programs. A number of our government officials are either detached from the reality of implementation or are still stuck in the trial and error phase that the once Covid-free areas now have cases of the dreaded disease.
Among the notable Covid-free areas is Ormoc City in Leyte whose mayor, actor Richard Gomez, distributed food in sacks rather than per kilo to minimize mobility and effectively control the spread of Coronavirus. With the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) approving the implementation of the “Balik Probinsiya” and “Hatid Probinsiya” programs, Ormoc is now one of the six emerging hotspots of Covid in the country. Along with Ormoc are the provinces of Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Cebu City and Cebu Province. Borders in these areas have been closed with quarantine regulations being strictly enforced.
An almost similar case also happened in the Bicol Region particularly in the provinces of Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate. But while Catanduanes had been defensive and stood on its decisions to allow the entry of its returning constituents, Masbate was on the opposite. Reports have it that Governor Tony Kho was enraged because the entry of people to his province happened without due consultation.
It should be noted that during the first few weeks of the pandemic, Kho imposed extreme restrictions including the prohibition of entry and exit of sea vessels and airplanes in the island province. It was only when food depleted that the provincial government eased its regulations but only on the entry of cargo vessels containing food and medical supplies and with strict conditions — the crew manning the roll-on roll-off (RoRo) vessels are not allowed to get out of the ships, while truck drivers are to remain in Pilar, Sorsogon or any port of origin. Only truck drivers waiting in Masbate are allowed to drive the trucks out of the RoRos to their destinations but only after the vehicles have been disinfected.
With the two reported cases of Covid-19, Masbate closed its ports. Locally stranded individuals (LSI) from Manila and other places are stranded anew and this time, in the Province of Sorsogon. Worse, Sorsogon is not only at the receiving end of LSIs going to Masbate but also to Visayas and Mindanao. Northern Samar, the gateway to Visayas and Mindanao, has closed its ports and would not allow incoming vessels as Covid cases are already on the rise in Region 7 — again, because of the Balik-Probinsiya and Hatid-Probinsiya programs. The closure of the Northern Samar seaports makes Sorsogon the unwilling host of these LSIs. Complicating the matter is, Sorsogon has two Covid-positive cases already and with two more suspects.
The residents of Sorsogon particularly in the Municipalities of Bulan and Matnog are now becoming restless. Not only will these LSIs compete with resources but, should cases spread, might conk out the local health system because, as Sorsogon Netizens have been complaining, the only major change in their health sector is the renaming of the local hospitals.
In all these goings on, we haven’t heard any statement yet from the brains of “Balik Probinsiya” and “Hatid Probinsiya” programs. Whether or not they are drinking cold beer and watching Netflix at the comforts of their homes, only their household members know. The only thing clear is: Nobody wants to own the mess and become accountable.