Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Sunday reminded authorities to strictly enforce health and safety protocols as thousands of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) return to their home provinces over the weekend under the Hatid Tulong initiative.
Go made the call after some LSIs seeking transportation assistance trooped to Rizal Park in Manila on Saturday, July 4 and underwent a rapid anti-body test administered by the Department of Health and Philippine National Police (PNP) Health Service.
LSIs who registered and passed the health screening test for COVID-19 were eventually granted a travel authority at the venue.
“Nais ko ipaalala sa lahat na hindi natin pwedeng ipagkait ang karapatan ng mga Pilipino na makauwi sa sarili nilang bayan. Sabi rin mismo ni Pangulong Duterte, ‘mga Pilipino ito, mga kababayan natin. Tanggapin ninyo (I just want to remind everyone that we can’t deprive Filipinos of their rights to return to their hometown. President Duterte himself said they are our fellowmen. Please accept them),” Go said.
“Whatever you need, we will provide…Gawin lang po ito sa ligtas at tamang paraan. Sundin palagi ang (Just do everything in a safe and right way. Always follow) health and safety protocols, at siguraduhin na maprotektahan ang mga komunidad na kanilang uuwian, (and make sure that their community is protected),” he reiterated.
Go, who chairs the Senate committee on health and demography said that since Hatid Tulong is a directive from the President, it is important to make sure that proper health and safety protocols are in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
“Proper coordination must also be conducted to make sure that receiving LGUs are willing and ready to accept their constituents,” he reiterated.
At the same time, Go urged the government agencies to adopt the “single dispatch” system similar to the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa program (BP2) which was also suggested by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
According to Go, the “single dispatch” system adopted by the BP2 implementors for people in the provinces is good because it’s more controlled and travelers would be able to avoid exposure and possible infection.
Earlier, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) suspended the BP2 program to give way to the more urgent needs of the beneficiaries of those under the Hatid Tulong Program, which Go clarified is different from BP2.
The BP2 program caters to Metro Manila residents who wish to return to the province after the COVID-19 crisis to start a new life again in their respective hometowns, while the Hatid Tulong aims to help Filipinos who were stranded in Metro Manila after the government enforced a lockdown to contain the spread of the contagion.
As of July 2, the Hatid Tulong program has provided assistance to a total of 62,762 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other stranded individuals, of which 18,320 were transported via land; 24,523 via air transport; and 19,919 via sea transport.