Palace admits lapses in Hatid Tulong program
A city government worker disinfects the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila yesterday after locally stranded individuals flocked to the area to avail themselves of free trips to their home provinces. Inset shows workers collecting garbage left behind by LSIs at the stadium. They collected four truckloads of trash.
Edd Gumban
Palace admits lapses in Hatid Tulong program
Alexis Romero, Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Lapses were committed when thousands of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) were crammed inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex without physical distancing, Malacañang admitted yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said there should be a better system.

“I would be blind if I say that there was no shortcoming there. There was a shortcoming,” Roque said in Filipino at a press briefing.

“There should have been a system wherein social distancing was observed,” he added.

Roque said he would talk to Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo to discuss ways to improve the implementation of Hatid Tulong, the program that sends home stranded persons.

“Perhaps we can make the Hatid Tulong regional so there would be no crowding and there would be social distancing while the LSIs are waiting for buses,” he added.

The government’s handling of LSIs at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila has drawn flak from critics who fear that the failure to observe safe distancing could lead to the spread of the coronavirus.

Encabo has appealed for understanding, saying they had to provide shelter to the stranded persons who were on the streets.

He has admitted that safe distancing had been violated but maintained that the government has to extend sympathy, care and understanding to the stranded persons.

Go: Follow protocols

Meanwhile, Sen. Bong Go said on Monday that government agencies implementing the Hatid Tulong program should observe health protocols and social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“We cannot deprive Filipinos the right to return to their home provinces. This is why I am urging the government to prioritize health protocols and ensure that everyone is safe and local governments are willing and ready to receive them,” he said.

Jump-off points

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said yesterday plans have been brought up for each region to have their own respective jump-off points for the Hatid Tulong program to prevent LSIs from swarming the stadium.

“For next programs like these, venues should be different for each region to prevent cramming of people. If we need to ferry individuals to five regions, then five respective sites would be prepared,” Año said in an interview over Teleradyo.

Around 3,600 people, many of whom lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, registered to get free bus and ferry rides to their provinces. However, almost 8,000 people went to the stadium.

The government has sent home at least 4,793 people from the stadium as of Monday, the DILG said.

Another 284 persons were brought to a housing site in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan while waiting for their provinces to lift their moratorium on the entry of LSIs.

The DILG said about 2,000 people were still stranded at the stadium as of yesterday.

Año said the government was eyeing to finish transporting LSIs tomorrow.

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