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Unauthorized travels of LSIs jeopardize safety protocols: exec

July 06, 2020 - Monday 4:07 PM by PNA

Article Banner Image Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo, lead convenor of the Hatid Tulong Program. (Screengrab from PCOO)

MANILA – Unauthorized travels and unsupervised movements of some locally stranded individuals (LSIs) which were not coordinated with the "Hatid Tulong" program jeopardize security and safety of provinces free from the coronavirus 2019 disease (Covid-19), said Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo on Monday.

In an interview in a Laging Handa briefing, Encabo, lead convenor of the program, said there are some organizations and private individuals assisting LSIs without proper coordination with the agencies involved in the Hatid Tulong program.

These LSIs, he said, did not undergo proper health protocols which could be a threat to provinces with only a few or no Covid-19 cases at all.

He said the program secretariat is closely coordinating with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to secure stranded people who were not properly coordinated with the government's Hatid Tulong initiative.

"Kailangan po matigil na 'yan. Naniniwala po ako na ang mga colorum activities na 'yan ay isa sa mga main reason o dahilan kung bakit tumataas po ang Covid-19 cases sa isang lugar (it must be stopped. I believe that these activities are the main reason why there is a spike on the Covid-19 cases in an area)," he said, noting that the implementation of the program is aligned with the national government's health protocols and guidelines.

Encabo said all LSIs will have to go through medical assessments, secure travel authority and get medical clearance before boarding the transport services.

"We are imposing strict physical distancing. Upon registration, we will be endorsing them to the DOH (Department of Health) to undergo the rapid testing, as part of our medical protocol and they will have to undergo consultation from the attending physician before providing them travel authority," he added.

He said the government assures that the LSIs are safe against the risk of spreading the Covid-19 before they arrive at their respective provinces.

All travels and movements are monitored by the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Hatid Tulong secretariat, Encabo said.

Health measures, protocols

Encabo, meanwhile, said the national government is closely coordinating with local government units (LGUs) to ensure that returning LSIs adhere to local health protocols upon arrival in their respective hometowns.

"Parte po ng ating pakikipag-ugnayan at kasunduan na ang mga LGUs po ay magkakaroon ng sariling medical protocol, gagawin nila doon 'yung swab test at compulsory po dun 'yung 14-day quarantine (it is part of our coordination and agreement that the LGUs have to conduct their own medical protocols, they need to conduct swab testing and 14-day compulsory quarantine)," he said, adding that a balanced process between the national government and the LGUs is in place to ensure that local transmission of Covid-19 is being contained.

If the LSI tests positive during the antibody rapid testing, Encabo said the person is immediately sent to a quarantine facility to undergo isolation and further confirmatory testing through swabbing.

Travel suspension

The government recently announced the approval of moratorium on sending back LSIs to Caraga, Region 6 (Western Visayas), Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), Cebu and Mactan due to limited quarantine facilities and existing quarantine restrictions.

Encabo said the TWG of Hatid Tulong temporarily suspended the transportation assistance for LSIs bound to these provinces.

The issuance of travel authority for LSIs in these regions, he said, is suspended for two weeks as per the instruction of the IATF.

Encabo, however, assured that once the moratorium is already lifted, the government will immediately process the needed documents to assist the travel of LSIs bound for these areas.

"Once ma-lift yung moratorium ay magpaplano po agad kami kung paano maihahatid ang mga stranded na indibidwal na nabibilang sa mga rehiyon na yan (Once the moratorium is lifted, we will immediately plan on the assistance to stranded individuals traveling in these regions)," he said.

Meanwhile, Encabo said the government expects to assist around 13,000 more LSIs.

There is also an inter-provincial and inter-regional version of the Hatid Tulong program, he added.

"Yung mga movements, halimbawa may mga stranded sa Batanes na nag-aaral sa Tuguegarao or sa Cagayan or Isabela, kahit hindi po sila taga-Manila ay pwede po natin silang maihatid sa ibang probinsya (for instance, there are individuals stranded in Batanes and are studying in Tuguegarao or Cagayan or Isabela, although they are not from Manila, we can still assist them to return to other provinces)," Encabo said.

Encabo assured that health protocols and measures to halt the Covid-19 are also strictly followed during the implementation of the inter-provincial and inter-regional version of the Hatid Tulong program. Lade Jean Kabagani