NATIONAL Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. yesterday said more than 200,00 people in Metro Manila want to return to the provinces amid the community lockdowns and constraints on the economy due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Galvez said many were stranded in Metro Manila when the lockdown was implemented in March while the rest were repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and Filipinos from abroad. Some had lost their jobs, had contracts that had been completed or ended due to the work stoppage.
“Many who are living in Metro Manila want to return to the provinces. There are now, more or less, 200,000 that signified interest to go back to the provinces,” Galvez said.
The Presidential Management Staff said 126,000 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) have so far been sent back to the provinces under the Hatid Tulong program.
PMS and Hatid Tulong convenor Joseph Encabo said apart from the LSIs, some beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya program are also being assisted through the Hatid Tulong program.
Encabo could not say how many but stressed the government cannot turn away those asking for help to return home. He said this also holds true for some “walk-in” LSIs who had trooped to the Hatid Tulong grand send-off events even if they were not registered and included in the list of persons being sent to home to the provinces.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the LSIs were excited to return home and had informed others of the scheduled events that resulted in the deluge of people, including those unregistered, and overcrowding at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
As of last count, more than 20 had tested positive for COVID-19 among LSIs who had converged at the Rizal Stadium.
Roque said this is now being addressed to prevent a repeat of the incident, including the disregard of health protocols like social distancing.
The PMS has recommended to the interagency task force to allow regional send-offs of LSIs in the coming months, or based on their destinations, instead of a one-time send off to multiple destinations.