Governor Arthur Yap has requested the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to slow down the pace of repatriation of locally stranded individuals (LSI) until the local government units (LGUs) are ready to accept them in Bohol.

“We understand that LSIs have the right to go home and we have the moral responsibility to accept them.  But we cannot do so under present conditions where we cannot defend and protect the health and livelihood of the people of Bohol,” Yap said on Sunday.

The right of LSIs to go home has to be balanced with the protection of the entire populace of Bohol against the health menace due to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), he said.

Yap requested Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the Covid-19 National Action Plan, to “slow down the pace of repatriation” so that not more than 4,000 LSIs would have to be placed in quarantine at any one time “to allow the system to properly process them”.

He said that there is no need to rush the homecoming of LSIs, stressing that their deluge would catch the receiving local government units flat-footed.

He pointed out that the key strategy is to manage and regulate the arrivals and avoid indiscriminate entry of LSIs to Bohol “considering the alarming rise of positive cases all traceable to returning LSIs”.

Yap also requested the IATF to make the coordination with the receiving LGU mandatory, to ensure proper endorsement and monitoring of the returning LSI.

The governor cited that the League of Provinces of the Philippines is even asking for at least three days of coordination before the LSI is sent home.

Yap also recommended that all returning LSIs be subjected to PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, “the way we are doing so with OFWs”.

“More than once, our LGUs are surprised that they are being asked to pick up an LSI who happened to just arrive in one of our ports. Last week, we even discovered arrivals who were not even from Bohol and got as far inland as Guindulman,” Yap said.

He emphasized the importance of coordination “to ensure that returning LSIs be properly monitored and quarantined for the safety not only of the LSI but the local population as current statistics show that more than 90 percent of those who are Covid-19 positive are from the group of returning LSIs”.

“At the rate, the infections are rising in Cebu and Bohol, if we do not rethink our policies, we may just be exporting the Covid problem to more provinces in our country. We want to help our nation, but it must be in a way that does not exacerbate the problem and expose to danger our local citizenry,” Yap pointed out. (PNA)