The government has targeted to help more than 5,000 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) go back to their respective provinces under the Hatid Tulong Program, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo said on Saturday.
Encabo, in-charge of the program, said around 3,570 LSIs bound for Mindanao benefited from the program on July 4, with another batch of nearly 2,000 bound for Luzon and Visayas scheduled to be transported on July 5.
“This day we have Mindanao except for the Caraga Region and tomorrow we will be accommodating LSI’s bound for Luzon and other islands in Visayas and Palawan,” he said.
“Caraga Region is under moratorium status along with the Region 6 (Western Visayas) and Region 8 (Eastern Visayas). When you say moratorium, there is a high risk of Covid-19 cases in the area. We are just following the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) guidelines,” he said in Filipino.
The program, Encabo said, is a government initiative to provide transportation to those stranded in Metro Metro due to lockdowns and travel restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Meanwhile, Encabo said preventive measures are in place during the Hatid Tulong program to avoid local transmission of the disease.
“We provide them (LSIs) medical check-ups, we observe health protocols and at the same time, we assist them on the renewal of their expired travel authority,” he said.
He added the LSIs underwent rapid testing for Covid-19 before they boarded the buses to ensure that stringent health protocols to halt the spread of the dreaded disease are followed.
Sarah Corazon Calugay, 22, is one of the stranded persons who were withheld from going abroad amid the pandemic.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa tulong na naibigay sa akin ng gobyerno, sa amin, na makauwi sa probinsya namin (I am grateful for the help that the government gave me, to us, that we will be able to return to our province),” Calugay said.
Encabo said the initiative under the program is a whole-of-government approach assisting the LSIs.
He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has extended financial support and food package assistance for the returning LSIs, while the Office of the President (OP) and the Office of Senator Bong Go also donated food package for the LSIs.
Around 100 buses are ready to transport LSIs from Saturday to Sunday, he said. (PNA)