Expect no more one-time, big-time sendoffs for locally stranded individuals (LSIs) in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo gave this commitment to the House Committee on Mindanao Affairs Tuesday after panel chairman Lanao del Norte 1st district Rep. Khalid Dimaporo called his attention to the spike of COVID-19 cases down south as observed by his fellow Mindanao solons.
"In our last meeting, several of the legislators have raised their concerns on the OFWs and LSIs coming to the Mindanao region. Mindanao was once protected from COVID-19 but because of the influx of LSIs and OFWs, we could not help it. And it's also our duty as local leaders to make sure that our constituents return home if they want to go home," Dimaporo told Encabo.
PMS is the lead convenor of all government agencies involved in the Hatid Tulong initiative, which focuses on giving transportation assistance to LSIs in Metro Manila or nearby provinces.
"The new approach now of the Hatid Tulong would no longer have a 'grand sendoff' system; we will now apply the 'pocket sendoff' system in order to manage well, facilitate well the movement of these LSIs and avoid the issue on social distancing," Encabo said.
"Meaning to say the subsequent sendoff of these LSIs is going to be calibrated, calculated and in a graduated manner. We will schedule it on a weekly basis, hindi na yung one-time, big-time na sendoff (no more one-time big-time sendoffs). We're going to do it per province or per region," he added.
Under this new process, the PMS will ask a local government unit (LGU) first as to their quota or how many LSIs they can accommodate per sendoff. Encabo said this will ensure that the recipient LGU will have ample quarantine facilities and swab tests for the incoming people.
"The Hatid Tulong always coordinates with the LGUs," he said, adding that LSIs are also pre-tested at their level before being whisked to their respective provinces.
But as to the reported spike in COVID-19 cases in Mindanao and in the countryside in general, Encabo could not help but blame the other physical transfers of LSIs that weren't carried out by them.
"There are a lot of unmonitored, unsupervised, unrecognized movement of LSIs. We have documents on that. They are using the names of other government agencies, even the program itself (Hatid Tulong)...when in fact those movements were not under our auspices," he said.