Cotabato City—Blank sailing in the meantime for two Philippine Navy vessels bound for Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi after 79 of the more than 400 locally stranded individuals they have on board were found positive of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19), officials said Tuesday.
Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Ministry of the Interior and Local Government, said plans to ferry home 424 or so LSIs were temporarily set aside for more urgent concerns: they would have to undergo the process of profiling, swab testing and accounting to determine their true number while in isolation facilities at the Cotabato Sanitarium in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.
Sinarimbo told reporters that following health protocols, all the LSIs would have to stay in the Maguindanao facilities for 14 days, before they could finally return home.
Also the number of the LSIs had seemingly varied from 414 on July 7 when they clambered up a government chartered ferry vessel in Manila, according to unofficial text messages from personnel of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to their counterparts in the BARMM.
Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, BAMRM Minister of Health, said that agency also had 405 name-entries in its lists of the same LSIs swab-tested and now awaiting results from the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory tests at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center.
But apparently, there were 414 people listed in the passengers’ manifest of MV St. Pope John Paul II, the ship chartered by the national government for the LSIs availing of the Tulong Balik Probinsiya Program.
The passengers’ manifest has not been made available to BARMM, according to sources from the region’s humanitarian unit, Rapid Emergency Assistance to Disaster Incidents.
After the LSIs disembarked from the chartered ship in Cagayan de Oro City on Tuesday, the DILG in Region 10 yet gave a different number, reporting that its count of the LSIs had reached 499.
But Sinarimbo said the BARMM humanitarian workers counted 424 people in the attendance sheets on the LSIs’ queues to boarding the 17 buses on Thursday—originally for Zamboanga City. But the buses had to detour to Maguindanao when officials were advised late that the local interagency task force may not allow the LSIs entry to that city.
Some local media entities had reported that they were to be taken by the 17 buses chartered by BARMM to Zamboanga City. The report appeared erroneous because of last-minute notice on the local IATF restriction in Zamboanga City.
At 12:15 a.m. when they arrived in the BARMM Isolation Area inside the
Cotabato Sanitarium Complex in Maguindanao, officials discovered that 18 persons had double listings, and 10 more were listed in pure number without names and other details.
But correcting the 18 instances of double-entry, and ignoring the wrong entry which merely indicates “10 Badjaos”, the number is reduced to 405, Sinarimbo pointed out, adding they were still not convinced that this was the true number of LSIs that boarded MV Pope John Paul II two weekends ago.