The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) called on partylist group Gabriela and their allied leftist groups to just help the government in fighting the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic and addressing hardships the crisis caused on many Filipinos instead of spreading fake news and disinformation.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said that Gabriela made a basic error in criticizing Balik Probinsiya when it failed to distinguish the Balik Probinsiya program from another government program, Hatid Probinsiya, a humanitarian program meant to repatriate thousands of people stranded in Metro Manila by the pandemic.
“By attacking the Balik Probinsiya 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 that the Balik Probinsiya 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 over-crowded informal settlement areas. He said that contrary to Gabriela’s claims, the Balik Probinsiya was never just about relocating low-income families to the provinces.
“The Balik Probinsiya 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 Probinsiya on the recent report that two people repatriated recently to Leyte province by the government were found positive with COVID-19. The leftist group claimed the two were among those repatriated by the government under Balik Probinsiya.
Malaya clarified that Hatid Probinsiya helps stranded people while Balik Probinsiya is a long-term program to make low income families relocate to better lives in their home provinces. Moreover, 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 Probinsiya beneficiaries so there are safety protocols in place in the receiving provinces,” he said.
Hatid Probinsiya has many components: Hatid OFW sa Probinsya under OWWA, Hatid Estudyante sa Probinsiya under DOTR, Hatid Turista sa Probinsya under DOT, and Other Stranded Individuals under the LGUs and PNP.
He said the government designed the Hatid Probinsiya Program for those stranded when the quarantine started in Luzon and elsewhere in mid-March. Hatid Probinsiya 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, Malaya said.
"Nakakaawa naman sila talaga kung hindi sila tutulungang makauwi sa kanila (They really needed help returning to their places)," the DILG official pointed out.
“Balik Probinsiya, 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?” he asked.
“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,” said the DILG spokesperson.
“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,” Malaya said.