MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte wants all 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stuck in quarantine centers in Metro Manila sent back to their respective homes within a week, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has ordered the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Department of Health (DOH) to expedite the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) test results of OFWs so that they could return home.
“Inutusan po ng Presidente ang DOLE, OWWA at ang DOH na meron lang silang isang linggo para masiguro na lahat po ng 24,000 na OFWs na kapatid nating Pilipino na nag-aantay ng resulta ay mapauwi na sa kani-kanilang probinsiya (The President has ordered the DOLE, OWWA, and DOH to ensure that all 24,000 OFWs waiting for their results would be sent home to their respective provinces within a week),” Roque said in an interview over state-run PTV-4.
Roque said the agencies may utilize all government resources to transport the OFWs back to their respective provinces.
“Puwede nilang gamitin ang lahat ng resources ng gobyerno at gamitin nila ang lahat ng pamamaraan ng transportasyon, bus, mapa-eroplano, mga barko, para mapauwi na ang mga OFWs (They may use all resources of government, and tap transportation modes such as bus, airplanes, and ships so our OFWs can return to their homes),” he said.
He said the President also emphasized the need to boost Covid-19 testing across the country.
“Nagsabi din ang ating Pangulo na kinakailangan palakasin ang PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing sa iba’t ibang lugar sa PIlipinas, hindi lamang sa Metro Manila nang sa ganon, pupuwede nang umuwi diresto sa kanilang mga probinsiya ang mga OFWs at doon na sila magpakuha ng PCR Covid-19 test (The President also saw the need to enhance PCR testing in different parts of the country, not only in Metro Manila. That way, OFWs can head straight to their provinces and be tested there),” he said.
Roque said the President is hopeful that there would no longer be any OFWs stuck in quarantine centers in Metro Manila within the one-week deadline he set for agencies.
He said Duterte found it “unacceptable” to give OFWs an additional burden while waiting for Covid-19 test results.
“Sang-ayon ang Presidente na kinakailangan na lahat ng ating manggagawa ay sumailalim sa Covid-19 test, pero sabi niya, hindi katanggap-tanggap na napakatagal ng proseso bago sila makauwi (The President agrees that all workers must take the Covid-19 tests but he finds it unacceptable the long process before they can return home),” he said.
Under government guidelines, all returning OFWs are required to undergo facility-based quarantine and Covid-19 tests to be shouldered by the OWWA.
Reports showed that OFWs have been complaining of being stuck in quarantine facilities beyond the mandatory 14-day quarantine period due to delays in the release of Covid-19 test results.
Last week, Roque assured that the national government will expedite the processing and release of Covid-19 test results of OFWs and accommodate a fresh batch of repatriates expected to arrive this May and June.
This after Presidential Peace Adviser and National Task Force on Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. warned that the arrival of some 42,000 returning migrant workers could overwhelm the country’s patient care centers.
Around 500,000 OFWs are expected to return within the year, he said.
Recent data showed that about 30,000 OFWs have undergone PCR testing, and around 600 were found positive, he added. (PNA)