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Overseas Filipino Workers

Clear quarantine guidelines for OFWs sought

File photo from DFA

KEY national government officials should get their act together and agree on a common policy concerning the mandatory quarantine of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a House leader said on Sunday.

House Deputy Majority Leader and Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Wilter “Sharky” Wee Palma II said he was addressing his appeal particularly to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido “Dodo” Dulay who claimed that OFWs who underwent 14-day quarantine abroad will be allowed to go straight to their homes upon their arrival while Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Cacdac maintained that all returning OFWs, even asymptomatic ones, are mandated to undergo a 14-day quarantine in facilities and hotels being provided by the government.

“It’s very unfortunate that the noble undertaking of President Rodrigo ‘Rody’ Duterte to ensure public safety and the health of our beloved OFWs has been jeopardized by clash or conflicting statements among our officials, sending many people to panic and local government officials to confusion,” Palma lamented, adding that the statements of Dulay and Cacdac were made in the same online media briefing last Saturday.

“This is a clear case of too many cooks spoil the broth,” Palma pointed out, adding “it is the duty of the state to give clear message that would guide the people to peace, stability and calmness.”

Palma suggested that the national government should designate a spokesperson who will answer all media queries concerning the return of OFWs and how they are going to come back to their provinces, especially in areas undergoing a transition in status from ECQ to general community quarantine.

“I urge the IATF to make a clear, concise and sound guidelines. At ‘wag ‘yung basta na lang may Secretary, or any of their subordinates, na magpa-interview sa media and sabihin niya ang kanyang interpretation sa guidelines. Let someone talk for and on behalf of the national government. ‘Wag ‘yung ang daming nagsasalita. It really gets confusing on the part of the LGUs.” A very disappointed lawmaker said.

“I even heard the story of 300 OFWs from the United States who were escorted by the Philippine Coast Guard straight to Pier 15 upon their arrival in Manila. They were held there for seven hours without food only to be turned over to OWWA later for quarantine. The point is na-exposed lalo sila sa isat-isa habang nasa holding area or nasa bus, bakit hindi na lamang dinala kaagad sa quarantine facility?” Palma complained.

Palma urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to formulate and immediately release guidelines on areas where the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will be lifted.

“The formulation of guidelines is very necessary to enable LGUs to act rightly and expeditiously. People who were stranded by the community quarantine outside of their respective municipalities, cities and provinces, OFW man sila or ‘yung mga naabutan lang ng quarantine, are getting restless and are in a hurry to go home. Our LGUs need these guidelines to enable them to respond to the needs of these people swiftly.” Palma underscored.

“Dito sa mga OFWs, ang suggestion ko, kung nakapag-quarantine sila abroad before flying back to the Philippines, the OWWA or DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) should make sure na diretso ang kanilang biyahe to their respective localities. Pagkagaling ng airport lipat sila agad sa plane or barko kung may available na maghahatid sa kanila sa mga probinsya nila. Pagdating sa probinsya, OWWA or DOLE should also make sure that their transportation is ready so that upon disembarkation from the plane or boat, diretso sila sa bus or van nila at ihahatid sila agad sa kanilang localities. Pagdating nila sa localitites nila ‘wag muna sila pauwiin ng bahay but rather put them in a 14-day quarantine in a quarantine-designated area, whether sa barangay nila or sa municipality/city. At least masisilayan nila agad mga pamilya nila. For those who did not undergo quarantine abroad prior to their flight, they should be sent directly to Clark or wherever is the designated quarantine area for a 14-day quarantine.”

Palma suggested.