MANILA — Nearly 500 people who were supposed to go home to the Bangsamoro region after they were stranded for months by the coronavirus lockdown in Metro Manila ended up instead in Cagayan De Oro City, an official said Thursday.
The 499 Bangsamoro residents were bound for the southernmost provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, but instead they arrived at a gymnasium in Cagayan De Oro City earlier this week. The group includes 40 minors, including a 4-month-old, said Bangsamoro Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo.
"Hindi rin po namin ma-track kung paano nagkaproblema," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. "Ang layo ho ng Cagayan De Oro. Iikot pa ho tayo ng Zamboanga peninsula bago tayo umabot sa Basilan, Sulu at Tawi-Tawi."
(We, too, can't track how the problem came about. Cagayan De Oro is far. You need to go around the Zamboanga peninsula before reaching Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.)
The Bangsamoro government on Wednesday hired 17 buses for a 10 to 12-hour journey to bring its stranded residents to the port in Zamboanga City, he said.
But Zamboanga officials said they had temporarily banned the entry of stranded individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19, said Sinarimbo.
The Basilan government also said its provincial health office was understaffed because some personnel had to be quarantined after they came in contact with returning residents who tested positive for the coronavirus, he said.
The Bangsamoro government will release funds so that Basilan could hire emergency health workers. But this will take 3 days, Sinarimbo said.
Due to these developments, authorities decided to instead bring the 499 Bangsamoro residents to an isolation facility in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, where they will be screened for coronavirus and wait for Navy ships to bring them home, he said.
"Medyo disjointed iyong program e, hindi masyadong pulido... Kung hindi nagkakasundo iyong national [government] saka mga LGUs, nahuhulog sa butas na iyon ang mga kababayan natin. Kailangan po nating saluhin," Sinarimbo said.
(The program is a bit disjointed, it's not that polished. If the national and local governments do not agree, our compatriots fall through the cracks. We need to catch them.)