The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) today said that close to 5,000 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) have been sent home to their respective provinces under the second phase of the government’s Hatid Tulong program for the past three days and at least 2,000 more will be transported back this week.
“With the help of other government agencies and the private sector, a total of 4,793 LSIs have been reunited with their families after being stranded in the metropolis due to the global pandemic. For the 2,000 more LSIs who are still being processed, many of whom are walk-ins who trooped to the Rizal Memorial Stadium, we will be able to send them home this week,” said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
Of the 4,793 LSIs, 35 are bound for Region I; 106 for Region II; 11 for MIMAROPA; 149 for Region V; 623 for Region VI; 325 to Region VII; 696 to Region VIII; 56 to Region X; 517 to Region XI; 724 to Region XII; 1,512 to Region XIII; and 39 to CAR.
The 2,000 LSIs left at the Rizal Memorial Stadium are waiting for trips bound for Zamboanga, Butuan, and Davao.
“Hindi natin sila basta-basta pinapauwi sa kani-kanilang mga probinsiya. Pinapascreen muna natin sila sa mga doktor mula sa DOH at PCG at sumasailalim sila sa rapid test bago sila sumasakay sa mga bus and barko,” said the DILG Chief.
Año said that those who tested positive were brought to an isolation facility for proper medical treatment. The others who tested negative were issued travel authority in compliance with DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-085 on the management of LSIs.
“Hindi doon nagtapos ang tulong ng gobyerno. Before boarding, the LSIs received additional aid such as food packages and financial assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Agriculture (DA),” he said.
According to Año, the LSIs were transported to their home provinces via 70 buses given by the League of Municipalities, three Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels, two 2Go vessels, and Philippine National railway (PNR) trains. Meanwhile, the list of LSIs on-board were endorsed to the DILG Regional offices concerned for proper monitoring and tracking at their LGUs of destinations.
“Nagpapasalamat kami sa iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno pati na ang mga LGUs at ang private sector sa pakikiisa na ipinakita nila sa Hatid Tulong Program at sa kanilang malasakit para sa ating mga kababayang na-stranded dahil sa pandemic,” he said.
The second phase of Hatid Tulong program was made possible through the joint efforts of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), DILG, League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), DSWD, DA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Philippine National Police, Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), PSG, 2Go, PNR, DOH, NHA, Partas Bus Line, AFP, DOLE, LTFRB. The PMS, being on top of the preparations and coordination, tapped all necessary resources to make the send-off of LSIs possible.
“Muli nating pinatunayan ang pusong bayanihan ng mga Pilipino sa pamamagitan ng pagtutulungan ng mga national government agencies at private sector para makauwi nang maayos at ligtas ang mga LSI sa kani-kanilang mga probinsiya. Even our uniformed personnel acted as porters by lifting huge bags, ushering passengers to their bus rides, and assisting senior citizens, pregnant women, and children,” he added.
However, Año also called for greater public understanding to those LSIs who were not pre-registered but flocked to the stadium and could not be immediately accommodated because of existing moratorium in their LGU destinations.
“They were transported to a temporary shelter in a housing project of the National Housing Authority (NHA) in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan onboard four (4) buses. Hindi natin sila pinabayaan,” he said.
For future Hatid Tulong programs, the DILG Secretary said they will designate one jump-off point for each region where the LSIs are headed to avoid a repeat of what happened last weekend where hundreds of unregistered people came to the Rizal Stadium to avail of the government’s free ride program.
Meanwhile, DILG Spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that the second phase of Hatid Tulong was more challenging because of the huge influx of people over the weekend and the unexpected number of walk-in applicants.
“They came in droves many days before the send-off because they all wanted to avail of the free ride back to their home provinces and many did not pre-register. The important thing is we did not leave them on the streets to fend for themselves. We had to make the best of a difficult thing and accommodated them inside the Rizal stadium, making our best effort to ensure that they observe minimum health protocols,” said Malaya.
He said the number of LSIs have grown tremendously because added to those who were stranded in Metro Manila because of the lockdown are those who were displaced by the economic slowdown who lost their homes and their jobs.
“May malasakit po ang pamahalaan. Hindi namin puwedeng ipagtabuyan ang mga walk-in na tao. Ang iba naman sa kanila ay hindi na LSI at gusto lamang makauwi sa kanilang probinsiya. Ngunit, naayos naman ang lahat at libo-libo na ang nakauwi,” he said.
“The government cannot turn its back on them because we are all victims of this pandemic. What is important is the government acted decisively and assisted them in their time of need. Hindi sila tinalikuran ng pamahalaan,” he added.