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No delays in gov’t assistance for stranded individuals, DOTr says

There has been no delay in the government's response to locally stranded individuals (LSIs) stuck for days on the streets of Metro Manila and other public spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Transportation (DOTR) said Thursday.

DOTR Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran made the response a day after DOTR Secretary Arthur Tugade checked on the situation of LSIs camped out near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)—a visit that came after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered him to accommodate the LSIs at NAIA until they are able to get on their flights home.

The LSIs had ended up having to stay for days in public areas and streets near the airport after their flights were cancelled.

Tugade’s airport visit also came a month after quarantine protocols in Metro Manila were eased from the enhanced community quarantine, which banned mass transport, to general community quarantine on June 1—a protocol that allowed 10% to 50% of mass transport to operate, including flights.

“It is not true na may delay sa assistance. From June 8 to 12, a total of 825 who were camped inside and outside the NAIA Terminal 3 facility were rescued by the DOTr and were brought to Villamor Elementary School and Philippine State College of Aeronautics in Pasay City,” Libiran told GMA News Online.

“That same week, 395 LSIs were sent home by the DOTr to their respective provinces in cooperation with airline companies that mounted additional flights,” Libiran added.

Libiran also cited that 430 LSIs were also sent home to their provinces from June 13 to 18.

“The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) facilitated the accommodation of the LSIs as chance passengers, negotiated with the airline companies for the early rebooking of the LSIs, and requested airline companies to mount additional flights to accommodate the ticketed LSIs,” Libiran said.

She also noted that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) sent home 15,000 LSIs under its Hatid Tulong Program by using the PCG’s transportation assets from May 1 to June 15.

BRP Gabriela Silang also sent home 150 LSIs to Davao and General Santos City in June 16 and ferried another 180 LSIs, including 30 indigenous peoples, to Zamboanga, General Santos City, Davao and Cagayan De Oro City on June 26.

The Philippine National Railways, for its part, was able to assist 234 LSIs who went home to the Bicol Region via trains on June 20 and June 25.

Libiran said that the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) also pitched-in to support the DOTr’s operations to assist the LSIs, enabling the PPA to assist 1,411 LSIs in going home to Dumaguete and Zamboanga aboard M/V St. Michael the Archangel on June 20 and to  Cagayan de Oro aboard the M/V St. Leo the Great on June 29.

Libiran, however, admitted that not all LSIs were already sent home.

“The DOTR also coordinated with the Pasay City Police Office and Southern Police District to cordon the Circulo del Mundo and prevent the gathering of LSIs,” she said.

Libiran then disclosed that based on PPA records, 113 LSIs bound for Bacolod/Iloilo were not allowed to board per request of moratorium from the receiving Local Government Units (LGUs) of Region 6. 

In addition, 184 LSIs are still at the PPA Annex Building since they are waiting for the lifting of moratorium from the receiving LGUs of Region 6.

“As the LSIs wait for clearance from their respective LGUs to return home, the PPA is providing them with meals,” she said. — BM, GMA News