A government task group has asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help curb the “colorum” or unauthorized transport of stranded travelers to the provinces.
Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo raised concern about “unsupervised” and “unmonitored” movement of the returning residents, saying this may be among the reasons for the surge in coronavirus cases in the provinces.
Encabo is part of the “Hatid Tulong” technical working group that oversees the transport of the locally stranded individuals (LSIs) back to their hometowns.
“I talked to (Interior and Local Government) Secretary (Eduardo) Año and other PNP officers to express the frustration of the Hatid Tulong technical working group because there are colorum, unsupervised, unmonitored movements of LSIs,” he said in Filipino during the Laging Handa public briefing Monday.
“We cannot pinpoint the group yet but we need the strict monitoring of the PNP especially when the colorum transportation activities of LSIs did not undergo rapid test or swab tests and did not pass the right process,” he said.
Encabo lamented that some organizations and local government units were not coordinating with the proper government agency to give proper protection for the LSIs. He said they recently received reports that two vans tried to sneak in LSIs into Samar without undergoing the proper testing procedure.
“This (colorum activity) should be stopped because I believe that colorum activity is one of the main reasons for the increase in COVID cases in a place),” he said.
The government has temporarily suspended the return of stranded travelers to their hometowns in Western Visayas, Cebu Island, Mactan, Eastern Visayas and Caraga region. The moratorium was imposed since these areas don’t have enough quarantine facilities yet to accommodate the returning residents.
The government moved to regulate the transit of the stranded individuals and now requires them to undergo polymerase chain reaction testing before they are allowed to board their flight, ship or bus ride home. Previously, the returning residents were only subjected to rapid tests.
As soon as the moratorium is lifted, Encabo said the task group will provide assistance to these stranded travelers. At present, he said they intend to help 13,000 travelers stranded in Metro Manila.
The transit of LSIs to other provinces, however, still continues. Over the weekend, the government provided transport aid to more than 4,000 passengers heading to their hometowns.
Encabo admitted that some local government units were still “adamant” and had “reservations” against the entry of returning residents to their places. He appealed that the return of these individuals is a “shared responsibility” of the national government and the local government units.
So far, the government has assisted 62,762 LSIs in their return trips to their home provinces.