The Provincial Government of South Cotabato recognizes the homesickness, fear and anxiety of its constituents in destitute in many parts of the country because of the COVID pandemic. By land, air, and sea, the Balik South Cotabato Program Task Force brought home  a total of 722 Locally Stranded Individuals (LSI) from Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo via Cebu Pacific, Air Asia and 2Go Shipping Lines  in the last three weeks.

Two hundred twenty-five passengers are still on board a commercial ship from Manila to Cagayan de Oro City as of press time. They are set to come home on June 17. The Provincial Government hires 10 buses and four vans to fetch the passengers. Argie Ryan Asaria, Tourism Officer I, is the team leader of the Cagayan de Oro Team.

In an interview over Kapihan sa Kapitolyo, Governor Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. declares, “Thousands are still coming.”

The Balik South Cotabato Program is an initiated program to assist stranded constituents to return to their homes after they were caught in the middle of the pandemic lock down.

Under the scheme, the returning individual pays for his/her plane or ship fare while the Provincial Government is in charge of the bus fare and food along the way to South Cotabato.

Provincial Tourism, meanwhile, reported that as of May 28, 2020 at least 200 Returning Overseas Individuals (ROI)  arrived in South Cotabato.

ROIs travel activity, on the other hand, is assisted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Indira Cagaanan, Provincial Tourism Officer-In-Charge, said that sweeper flights organized by OWWA are “definitely regularly.”

“There is 15 personnel in every team who will fetch the repatriates in General Santos International Airport,” Cagaanan said. These include representatives from PNP, Tourism, DRR, and health.

Sweeper flights through commercial airlines are scheduled every day until further notice. Regular flights, meanwhile, are every Monday and Thursday, Cagaanan confirmed.

Steve Rodriguez, who is in charge of the plane and ship booking, said that as of today the Provincial Tourism is set to confirm another scheduled flight based on the order of the Governor’s Office.

“We already have organized two flights for Manila and Iloilo, one for Cebu and Davao stranded passengers. We have a scheduled travel to Davao, but there is no definite date,” Rodriguez said.