MANILA – More than 16,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in different quarantine facilities in Metro Manila have been sent home, Malacañang said on Thursday.
“Mahigit 16,000 na mga OFW ang nakauwi sa kani-kanilang mga tahanan mula nang pinag-utos po ni Presidente (Rodrigo) Duterte ang pagpapauwi (More than 16,000 OFWs have returned to their homes after President Duterte ordered so),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser.
Roque assured that all OFWs who were released have undergone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and have shown negative results.
He said three flights were scheduled on Thursday morning to transport OFWs back to their homes in Davao City, Dumaguete City, and Puerto Princesa City.
Two ships are also carrying more than 1,200 OFWs bound for Cebu, Dumaguete City, Ozamis City, Iligan, and Zamboanga, Roque said, adding that “approximately 100” buses from the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange are set to transport OFWs to different provinces in northern and southern Luzon.
Under government guidelines, all returning OFWs are required to undergo facility-based quarantine and PCR tests.
However, several OFWs have complained of being stuck in quarantine facilities beyond the 14-day required period.
This prompted the President to order the departments of labor and health to send home the 24,000 OFWs stuck in quarantine centers within a week.
Amid concerns raised by some local officials that returning OFWs could be possible Covid-19 carriers, Roque said even if they have already tested negative, they could undergo a second round of quarantine.
“Mayroon pa rin kayong diskresyon kung gusto ninyong i-quarantine. Talaga pong may mga pagkakataon na makakapasok talaga iyong sakit sa lugar natin (You still have the discretion if you want to make them undergo another quarantine. There is always a chance that the disease would reach our areas),” he said.
Roque suggested that local officials designate “unloading zones” for buses and other vehicles transporting OFWs as an extra precaution to minimize the risk of infection in their localities.
“Puwede namang mag-designate ng special unloading zone siguro kung bus iyan at puwede namang salubungin na iyan ng mga lokal na pamahalaan para magbigay ng sariling forms nila for contact tracing kung kinakailangan (They can designate special unloading zones for buses so that the local government can meet them and give them forms for contact tracing if necessary),” he said.
Some 300,000 OFWs are expected to return to the country this year as their host countries have been sending them home, authorities said.
The national government assured it would 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. (PNA)