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19 May 2022 – The city government continues to address the plight of mendicants and vagrants in the city with the ultimate aim of keeping them away from the streets.

Office of the City Social Welfare and Development Officer (OCSWDO) Officer-in-Charge Liza Bulayungan said the inter-agency Anti-Mendicancy Task Force headed by Mayor Benjamin Magalong conducts regular engagements with the mendicants and vagrants and provides services that they need.

She said that monitoring activities were intensified starting January this year when they were observed to increase in number.

“During the pandemic, vagrants and mendicants were barely seen in the streets but when the tourism activities and transportation gradually opened, they also gradually went back to the streets begging and roaming around thus the task force in coordination with the barangays within the central business district resumed conducting round-ups constantly reminding them especially the persons with visual disability whose livelihood (massage) was greatly affected by the pandemic  on the threats to their health and safety of the prolonged stay in the streets,” the OCSWDO noted in its report prepared by Social Welfare Officer II Coralie Dulnuan.

According to the report, the task force monitored and assisted 96 mendicants and three vagrants from January 18 to April 1.

Services provided include counseling focusing on the health risk, strengths of the family and its members, disadvantage of mendicancy; psychological first aid, provision of family food packs, face masks and free transport to their residences.  Minors were turned over to their families.

Non-Baguio residents were referred to the CSWD Unit Social Workers for provision of monetary and other assistance to their families and to the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development for Balik Probinsya Assistance.

The masseuse and tattoo artists at Burnham Park were advised against conducting their livelihood in parks in observance of the health protocols and health and sanitation purposes advised in coordination with the City Environment and Parks Management Office headed by CEPM Officer Rhenan Diwas.

Early this month, the Persons with Disability Affairs Officer under Samuel Aquino also engaged with visually impaired persons begging around the CBD to help them get back to help them leave the streets and go back to their previous sources of livelihood.

For the three vagrants, assistance provided include referral to hospital for check-up and medical attention for the client’s baby, counseling services with client and her husband focusing on their roles as parents and how to resolve marital conflicts, referral of her baby to DSWD-RSCC for residential care services and eventually adoption since client and her husband are not capable of caring, food assistance, temporary shelter and homelife services at Silungan Center while locating the relatives who are not Baguio residents.

The OCSWADO identified the issues affecting the mendicants and vagrants:

*Mendicants find it easier to beg rather than work as the latter eats most of their time and effort without the assurance of having something to provide for their families

* PWDs mostly visually impaired who are already old can no longer do massage or go to work while others opted to beg since they have a few or no customers in their clinics. Capital assistance provided to them was not maintained since even their family members lost their jobs. Others opted for busking along Session Road.

*Masseuse at Burnham Park insists on continuing their livelihood at the park since they have limited skills.

The OCSWDO said it will continue monitoring and providing social services to the mendicants/ vagrants and their families to prevent them from going back to the streets.

Recommendations include continued advocacy on the anti-mendicancy law, observance of health protocols and other existing ordinances and sustained monitoring by barangays, Baguio City Police Office and Public Order and Safety Division, more busking activities, for CSWD and PDAO to coordinate with the PWDs groups and other agencies that can provide alternative livelihood not only to them but to their family members and for the masseuse to organize themselves and submit to CSWDO their list of officers and profile of members to come up with a plan for the group and coordination with other agencies such as TESDA for skills training and DOLE/DSWD for livelihood assistance. – Aileen P. Refuerzo