Balik Probinsya participants won't be sent to provinces unable to test for COVID-19, official says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) — There will be no dispatch of Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa participants to provinces unable to test for COVID-19, said the program's executive director on Thursday.

"In my capacity, pag tingin ko na wala namang tsansa na talagang (if I think there really is no chance) tests can be conducted in a particular province, I will not command the dispatch," said Marcelino Escalada Jr., who is also the general manager of the National Housing Authority, in the regular Laging Handa briefing.

Meanwhile, the next rollout of program participants, which will be done simultaneously beginning June 11, shall push through for provinces with coronavirus testing capacity provided there is proper coordination with their local governments, he added.

These are Leyte, Samar, Negros Occidental, Northern Samar, Camarines Sur, Eastern Samar, Zamboanga del Norte and Lanao del Norte, he added.

"[T]hese local government units have the testing capacity. They will test and treat. Then pag (if they test) negative naman, they can continue their quarantine at home. Pag (If they test) positive, they have the facilities to take care of their own constituents," said Escalada.

The official cited what happened in Leyte, wherein two out of the 112 returnees comprising the first batch of Balik Probinsya enrolees that arrived there last month tested positive for COVID-19.

"[S]abi ko kay (I told Leyte) Governor Mic (Petilla), I think that is just an expected result because when you conduct the test naman, Secretary Martin (Andanar), you don't expect that the result will always be negative," assured the NHA official. "What is important is the government has the capacity to treat them."

Some 79,000 have already applied to the Balik Probinsya program online, with 10,000 more manual applications expected to come in this week, he added.