Palace admits Hatid Tulong program shortcomings

Palace admits Hatid Tulong program shortcomings

MANILA — Malacañan on Tuesday admitted that there were shortcomings in the “Hatid Tulong” program after photos of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) who were seen cramming inside Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila went viral on social media.

In a virtual Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it was clear that there is a lack of physical distancing being implemented in the stadium.

“Bulag naman ako kung sasabihin kong walang pagkakamali doon. Meron pong pagkakamali doon (I would be blind to say that there were no shortcomings there. There were shortcomings there),” he said.

Roque said he would personally speak to Hatid Tulong Executive Director and Assistant Secretary Joseph Joy Encabo to ensure that these issues are addressed. He echoed the suggestion of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to set up separate venues for LSIs who will be sent home based on their region.

“Siguro ang gagawin natin ay yung mga Hatid Tulong ay gawin na nating regional ng sa ganun hindi magdagsaan lahat at magkaroon tayo ng social distancing habang nag-aantay ng bus na masasakyan ng LSIs (Perhaps we can make it by region so people would not be cramming inside and there would be social distancing while waiting for a bus ride),” he said.

On Monday, Encabo bared that eight to nine LSIs in the stadium have tested positive for Covid-19 under rapid antibody tests. He said the LSIs who tested positive were brought to isolation centers and subjected to confirmatory swab tests.

To date, an estimated 2,000 LSIs are still at the Rizal Memorial stadium waiting for trips back to their home provinces, according to Año.

He said the national government is eyeing to finish transporting the remaining LSIs by Thursday.

Over 4,000 LSIs staying at the stadium were already transported to various provinces, he said. Local government units (LGUs) with departing and returning LSIs are encouraged to support the Hatid Tulong program, he added.

The Hatid Tulong program is a short-term humanitarian effort to assist LSIs, repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and other affected Filipinos in Metro Manila due to travel restrictions imposed during the quarantine period to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Metro Manila is currently under general community quarantine (GCQ) until July 31. (PNA)

On photo: Locally stranded individuals inside the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Pasay were crammed and did not observe the prescribed social distancing.

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