SENATOR and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated his call to concerned agencies assisting locally stranded individuals to provide all possible forms of assistance necessary to not only help stranded Filipinos go home to their provinces, but to ensure that they would not be a cause of further spread of the COVID-19 disease.
“Sinabi ko naman noon pa na huwag pabayaan ang ating mga kababayan na kinakailangang umuwi sa probinsya. Tulungan natin silang makauwi pero bigyan natin sila ng maayos na sistema para hindi sila magkasakit at hindi sila nakaabang lang sa mga transportation terminals,” Go said, reiterating that “social distancing and wearing of masks must be practiced at all times.”
“Kawawa ang mga tao. Kaysa nakakalat sa sidewalk habang naghihintay ng masasakyan, dapat asikasuhin sila ng national government agencies. Alagaan natin sila, bigyan ng pagkain, maayos na masisilungan, at huwag hayaang magkumpol-kumpol para rin maiwasan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit,” he added.
Go said that concerned agencies must adopt a system that is compliant with health and safety protocols in the conduct of rollouts of the Hatid Tulong initiative of the government.
“Unahin natin palagi ang kapakanan at buhay ng mga Pilipino. Huwag ninyo po hayaan na sa kagustuhan nating matulungan silang makauwi sa probinsya ay hindi na nasusunod ang mga patakaran upang maiwasan ang pagkalat ng sakit,” Go stressed.
“Nasa gitna pa po tayo ng pandemya. Magtulungan tayo para hindi mas mahirapan ang taumbayan. Tulungan natin ang mga naghahanap ng paraang makauwi sa paraan na hindi sila mailalagay sa alanganin. Huwag ninyong pabayaan,” he added.
To guarantee the safe transport of people, Go urged the implementers of the Hatid Tulong initiative to adopt the single dispatch system similar to the temporarily suspended Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program. The controlled set of procedures of the proposed system would ensure that travelers avoided any unwanted exposure to the virus.
In early June, the government temporarily suspended the BP2 program to focus its resources into helping stranded citizens in Metro Manila and other regions. Not to be confused with the BP2 program, Hatid Tulong is another initiative of the executive branch to help individuals, tourists, students and overseas workers left locally stranded to return to their hometowns.
This is a joint effort of various executive agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and its attached agencies including the Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Tourism, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, Presidential Management Staff, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine National Police, other concerned agencies, and in coordination with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
To prevent the spread of the virus, all beneficiaries who wish to return to their provinces undergo rapid COVID-19 testing conducted by DOH representatives from their place of origin and are required to follow quarantine procedures once they arrive in their provinces. This is done in coordination with local government units and in compliance with national and local health and safety protocols being implemented.
“Nais ko ipaalala sa lahat na hindi natin pwedeng ipagkait ang karapatan ng mga Pilipino na makauwi sa sarili nilang bayan. This is why I am urging the government na unahin nila ang health protocols na dapat ligtas po ang lahat ng bumibiyahe, at willing at handa po ang mga LGUs na tanggapin sila," Go explained.
The Senator echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier remarks that LGUs must be ready to accept returning residents and ensure that they will be assisted upon their arrival to their provinces.
“Sabi rin mismo ni Pangulong Duterte, ‘mga Pilipino ito, mga kababayan natin. Tanggapin ninyo. Whatever you need, we will provide. Kawawa naman. Tulungan ninyo ang mga Pilipino’,” Go said.
As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go previously requested the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to further streamline the process of transporting beneficiaries, impose strict health and safety protocols, and to put a stop to unauthorized or unsanctioned travel initiatives.
“Gawin lang po ito sa ligtas at tamang paraan. Sundin palagi ang health and safety protocols, at siguraduhin na maprotektahan ang mga komunidad na kanilang uuwian,” he ended.