The Philippine government said it vows to address the lapses in the implementation of the Hatid Tulong program after photos of locally-stranded individuals (LSIs) cramming inside Rizal Memorial Stadium over the weekend drew flak from the public.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on July 30, 2020, that over-crowding in stadium was due to the unexpected influx of LSIs which failed to register their intention to be sent home.
“Nagkaroon po sila ng registration by internet, kaya lang po iyong ating mga kapatid na LSI dahil atat na atat nang makauwi, eh sinabihan iyong ibang mga kababayan nila na naging dahilan na talagang napakadaming dumating na hindi inaasahan ng mga organizers (There is a supposed registration through internet, but our LSIs who were excited to return home told others about it which is why there were so many that showed up unexpected by the organizers),” he said in a press briefing in Quezon City.
However, he said the government has taken note of criticism over LSIs cramming inside the stadium and will prevent this from happening in the future.
“Kung anuman iyong pula ninyo eh sa susunod po a-address-an natin at ang sabi naman po ng Pangulo, we are far from being perfect. Pero ang sinigurado po natin, makatulong po tayo sa ating mga kapwa, sa ating mga LSIs (Whatever your complaints are, we will address them and the President admitted that we are far from being perfect. But perhaps we will make sure that we will be able to help our neighbors, our LSIs),” he said.
Roque, meanwhile, noted that LSIs have been grateful for the government’s efforts to send them back to their respective hometowns.
“Kung tatanungin ninyo iyong mga nakauwi na sa ngayon, eh talaga naman pong pasalamat sila sa ating Pangulo dahil napakahirap po na maging stranded sa Metro Manila, wala kang trabaho, wala kang hanapbuhay at mas mabuti po talaga sa kanila ay makauwi na (If you’d ask those who returned to their hometowns, they’re really thankful to our President because it’s really difficult to be stranded in Metro Manila with no work, no livelihood, so it’s just better to return home),” he said.
He reiterated the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to prioritize the return of all LSIs amid the limited public transportation available due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“At ang sabi naman po ng Presidente, lahat ng gustong umuwi sa kanilang mg probinsya, dapat bigyan ng paraan para makauwi (The President said that all those who want to go back to their provinces should be given means to return home),” he said.
On July 28, 2020, Roque said he would personally speak to Hatid Tulong Executive Director and Assistant Secretary Joseph Joy Encabo to ensure that these issues are addressed.
He echoed the suggestion of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to set up separate venues for LSIs who will be sent home based on their region.
“Siguro ang gagawin natin ay yung mga Hatid Tulong ay gawin na nating regional ng sa ganun hindi magdagsaan lahat at magkaroon tayo ng social distancing habang nag-aantay ng bus na masasakyan ng LSIs (Perhaps we can make it by region so people would not be cramming inside and there would be social distancing while waiting for a bus ride),” he said.
Before being sent back to their respective hometowns, LSIs are subjected to rapid antibody testing, which detects the presence of antibodies in an individual’s blood or serum even before symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) start to show.
LSIs undergo quarantine and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) when they reach their hometowns.
National Task Force (NTF) on Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., in the same briefing, said local government units (LGUs) now have the capacity to provide RT-PCR testing. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)