Some 73 Badjaos, who were sheltered by the city government during the community quarantine in the past two months, have traveled home to Jolo, Sulu, passing through Negros Oriental on Sunday.
Mayor Evelio Leonardia said that after traveling from Bacolod to Dumaguete City, the group boarded a boat going to Zamboanga City on Sunday night.
“I thank Governor Roel Degamo for approving the passage of the Badjaos through the territorial jurisdiction of Negros Oriental straight to the pier in Dumaguete,” Leonardia said.
The plan to send the Badjaos home was announced by the city government on the third week of August after they were identified as possible carriers of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as they roam and beg around the city.
Their return to Mindanao was almost aborted due to the challenges posed by the pandemic as well as the Jolo bombings later on the same month.
In the meantime, the Badjaos, who included both adults and children, were sheltered at the Bacolod Youth Home in Barangay Vista Alegre and provided with daily food supply and other basic necessities by the city’s Department of Social Services and Development (DSSD).
In coordination with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Western Visayas, the DSSD and the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) were finally able to facilitate their return home.
The OCD of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has been tasked to receive the Badjaos in Zamboanga and ensure their safe travel to Jolo.
According to the city government, the DSSD provided them with food and cash allowances, rented a bus to bring them to Dumaguete, and paid for their boat fares going to Zamboanga using program funds of the Department of Social Welfare and Development coursed through the DSSD.
In a radio interview before departing Bacolod, one of the Badjaos, identified as Sumping Daya, said they long wanted to go home but travel restrictions prevented them from leaving.
DSSD head Pacita Tero said they briefed the Badjaos on the risks they are facing if they continue roaming the streets of Bacolod amid the Covid-19 outbreak. (PNA)