MESSAGE OF GRATITUDE. A returning locally stranded individual put her message of gratitude on a piece of paper as she arrived at the Davao International Airport with the help of North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco and the Task Force (TF) Sagip Stranded North Cotabateños recently. The TF Sagip said that it has so far facilitated the return of 9,050 homecoming residents to the province stranded due to community quarantine lockdowns across the country as brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of North Cotabato PIO)
COTABATO CITY – In coordination with the national government’s “Hatid Tulong” program, North Cotabato’s “Task Force Sagip Stranded Cotabateños” has so far facilitated the return of 9,050 residents to the province.
Data from the TF Sagip indicated that of the total number, 410 are Returning Overseas Filipinos( ROFs) and 8,640 are locally stranded individuals (LSIs).
“We will continue serving until the last LSI and ROF shall arrive in the province,” Catamco said referring to her brainchild TF Sagip program. She said that those who have returned were reunited with their respective families after completing the mandatory 14-day quarantine in the province.
Data from the TF Sagip secretariat indicated that as of July 9, the town of Midsayap has the highest LSIs and ROFs among North Cotabato’s 17 towns and one-city with 1,096. Kidapawan City came next with 863.
The town of Banisilan trailed with 754, Alamada (433), Aleosan (266), Antipas (315), Arakan (348), Carmen (550), Kabacan (123), Libungan (550), Makilala (705), Magpet (243), Matalam (252), M’lang (549), Pigcawayan (509), Pres Roxas (428), Pikit (604) and Tulunan (462).
Catamco said the total number may hit the 10,000-mark once LSIs on board four chartered flights tentatively scheduled on July 14-17 shall arrive.
Catamco decided to fund the chartered flights to ensure stranded North Cotabateños can return home. She maintained that helping stranded Cotabateños is both her moral obligation and duty as governor and leader.
“We need to help them return home so we can attend to their health needs before they can be with their loved ones,” she said, adding that “it is never easy to get sick with nobody to turn to.”
Speaking to members of the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), Catamco explained why she opened wide the province’s door to returning province-mates.
“There was resistance to the implementation of the Sagip stranded initiative due to fear of the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the province,” Catamco said. “However, we cannot just wait for the worst things to happen, for their ashes to arrive if they get infected and die away from their families.”
From May to June this year, the TF Sagip secretariat had received and validated 6,118 online registrants asking help so they can return home during the lockdown.
The number increased as ROFs of North Cotabato started to arrive in the country.
Catamco said the TF Sagip recorded three confirmed Covid-19 cases involving LSIs and one TF Sagip front-liner or three out of 9,050 individuals “or simply 0.0003 percent.”
She attributed the success of the program to the strict implementation of health protocols like the 14-day quarantine at the local government unit facility after their turnover to the province and the requirement for LSIs and ROFs to have health certificates from their places of origin. (PNA)
Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency