MANILA: The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) called on party-list group Gabriela and their allied leftist groups to just help the government in fighting the dreaded coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and addressing hardships the crisis caused on many Filipinos instead of spreading fake news and disinformation.
DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said Gabriela made a basic error in criticizing Balik Probinsya when it failed to distinguish the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program from another government program, Hatid Probinsya, a humanitarian program meant to repatriate thousands of people stranded in Metro Manila by the pandemic.
“By attacking the Balik Probinsya program, Gabriela showed that its true agenda was never the truth but merely to nitpick and to discredit the government at every possible opportunity,” he said.
In truth, Malaya said the Balik Probinsya program is a long-term government program designed to help low income families in Metro Manila resettle in their home provinces, especially those who live in overcrowded informal settlement areas.
He said that contrary to Gabriela’s claims, the Balik Probinsya was never just about relocating low-income families to the provinces.
“The Balik Probinsya program is the government’s long-term response to the Covid-19 pandemic which intends to provide means of livelihood and accessible healthcare programs to those who chose to relocate to the provinces. This is not a quick fix as Gabriela claims but a long-term solution to provide healthcare and job opportunities in rural areas,” he said.
Gabriela erroneously premised its attack on Balik Probinsya on the recent report that two people repatriated recently to Leyte province by the government were found positive for Covid-19. The leftist group claimed the two were among those repatriated by the government under Balik Probinsya.
Malaya clarified that Hatid Probinsya helps stranded people while Balik Probinsya or BP2 is a long-term program to make low-income families relocate and have better lives in their home provinces.
He said the government prescribed strict health protocols to the home provinces when they welcome returning residents such as testing protocols, and immediate quarantine or isolation in a separate facility, if needed.
“The receiving LGUs can impose additional health protocols to the Hatid Probinsya beneficiaries so there are safety protocols in place in the receiving provinces,” he said.
Hatid Probinsya has many components: Hatid OFW (overseas Filipino worker) sa Probinsya under Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Hatid Estudyante sa Probinsya under Department of Transportation, Hatid Turista sa Probinsya under Department of Tourism, and other stranded individuals under the local government units (LGUs) and Philippine National Police.
He said the government designed the Hatid Probinsiya program for those stranded when the quarantine started in Luzon and elsewhere in mid-March.
Hatid Probinsya, he added, helps thousands of stranded people including displaced overseas Filipino workers, students, travelers, and simple tourists who could not return to their provinces because of the strict quarantine rules all over.
“They really needed help returning to their places,” Malaya said.
He said Balik Probinsya, on the other hand, will provide these poor families with livelihood, housing, access to educational and health facilities near their residences and “probably even land for agricultural development.”
“So, how can it cause more economic problems for these families? “Sana naman eh itong Gabriela at ang mga kapareho nitong grupong maka-kaliwa ay itigil na ang walang habas na pagbatikos ng walang basehan sa ating pamahalaan at tumulong na lang sa kampanya laban sa Covid-19 (I hope Gabriela and its allied leftist groups will stop throwing baseless criticisms against government and instead help fight Covid-19),” Malaya said.
“Definitely, the government correctly responded to these stranded people’s situation, and Gabriela can help our country more if they stop their senseless attacks on the government and just help our suffering people deal with the crisis,” he added.
(DILG-PR/ SRNY/ RSP)