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Lanao del Sur suspends return of OFs, LSIs

File Photo: Task Force Bangon Marawi / Marawi City
File Photo: Task Force Bangon Marawi / Marawi City

by: Divina Suson ILIGAN CITY– Lanao del Sur's Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Covid-19 has temporarily stopped receiving locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and repatriated overseas Filipinos (ROFs) from July 1 until July 15.

The move was approved by the national IATF on Monday following the request of the provincial IATF, which cited the sudden surge of Covid-19 positive when LSIs and ROFs started coming home last month through the government's "Hatid Probinsya" initiative.

Zia Alonto Adiong, Lanao del Sur IATF spokesperson, said the request was prompted by the province's limited number of quarantine facilities “versus the volume of returnees coming in, taking into consideration the 14-day mandatory quarantine period.”

“We need to reassess and improve the system on the basis of the climbing number of infection rate in the province. While we suspend temporarily the repatriation of LSIs & ROFs, the intention is to better the system,” Adiong added.

Adiong said the receiving local government units (LGUs) and the national IATF should determine the appropriate number of returnees taking into account the healthcare capacity of the LGUs, in order to sustain a more effective health emergency response once the program is reactivated.

“We will use the 15-day suspension to review our local health emergency intervention. The idea is to further improve the service,” Adiong said.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra welcomes the decision of the national IATF, saying: “We will be confident that no possible transmission of Covid-19 will occur. It is better safe than be complacent in this time of a pandemic.”

A component city of Lanao del Sur, Marawi City serves as the provincial screening and triaging of returning LSIs and ROFs.

Sheila Devnani-Ganda, Lanao del Sur IATF focal person for LSIs and ROFs, said the province has already accepted some 4,604 returning residents when ports reopened on June 3 following the lifting of the imposed restrictions on local travels.

The ports of entry to Lanao del Sur and Marawi City include Laguindingan Airport, Cagayan de Oro pier, Awang Airport in Cotabato, Iligan City port area, Ozamiz pier, and Pagadian Airport.

"In order to be assured that all arriving constituents are screened and tested at our facility, we have shuttle vans on standby ready to pick them up and accommodate as many of them as possible. Laguindingan has 3-4 flights every day and 80 percent most of its passengers are our constituents,” Ganda said.

For over a month since the start of the repatriation, Lanao del Sur has recorded 101 Covid-19 cases; 74 of these have completely recovered and finished the 14-day quarantine period, while 27 are new active cases who remain in quarantine.

“The 4,604 LSIs, it is the highest in Northern Mindanao and the Bangsamoro Region yet, no local transmission has been recorded,” Ganda said.(PNA)

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