For the past two days, 880 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were stranded in Manila were repatriated back to Panay and Guimaras islands through the Iloilo port and airport, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Western Visayas (OWWA 6).
The repatriation that started May 25 was in line with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the safe return of OFWs, who underwent the mandatory quarantine, to their families.
Three sweeper flights via Philippine Airlines arrived at the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, Iloilo and one voyage of 2GO vessel arrived at Fort San Pedro terminal in Iloilo City on May 25.
Moreover, three sweeper flights via Air Asia left for Iloilo from Manila on May 26. The last flight for the May 26 schedule arrived at the Iloilo International Airport around 1 a.m. of May 27.
In a text message Wednesday, OWWA 6 officer-in-charge Rizza Moldes said they are expecting additional flights carrying more repatriated OFWs within the day.
In a separate phone interview, Atty. Roy Villa, spokesperson for the Regional Task Force Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), said the repatriated OFWs are subjected to triaging upon their arrival in the port and airport.
The triaging is necessary to sort out which provinces they belong to.
“The local government units (LGUs) are just ready with their transportation. After the triaging, the OFWs board the vehicles and they are transported back to their respective provinces,” he said.
Meanwhile, Villa said that with the surge in the arrival of OFWs, they could no longer follow the protocol that was approved by the task force.
The protocol states they have to undergo the 14-day quarantine, and swabs will be taken while they are in isolation centers.
He said they will go back to default quarantine, which is the home quarantine.
OFWs upon repatriation will proceed first to the quarantine facility that was prepared by their local government unit in their respective provinces.
They are subjected to the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. If they are negative of the Covid-19 then, they will be allowed to continue with their 14-day quarantine in their respective homes.
“We are still expecting more OFWs coming home from Manila and other areas like Cebu. To accommodate them, our default quarantine is home quarantine,” he said.
However, LGUs may opt for a quarantine facility if they have a bigger isolation center that can cater to more individuals.
Villa said that based on the pronouncement of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the OFWs who will be sent home from May 25-27 have undergone the mandatory quarantine requirement and have negative swab or RT-PCR test results.
However, they have been staying in Manila for a longer period of time. Hence to ensure that transmission will be prevented, if they are positive, they will again be subjected to another swab test.
Meanwhile, in a press conference on Tuesday, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas expressed the readiness of this highly urbanized city to accommodate OFWs who will be repatriated in compliance with the three-day OFW Return Program of the national government.
Treñas said the 100-capacity isolation center inside the University of Iloilo (UI)-PHINMA campus in this city is being prepared and they only need to install electric fans.
He added the 100-bed capacity Diamond Jubilee Hall in this city’s Mabini Street is already full.
There are also hotels that are ready to open to accommodate OFWs should the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) decides to billet them in these facilities.
“There are hotels that will open today (May 26) because they only asked for 48 hours (to prepare),” he said.
He added while the city government is ready to sustain the OFWs and repatriates for the conduct of the swab test, he is not yet certain if the local government can also cope in terms of food provision if they will be housed in isolation centers.
“We will try to do our best while we do not really know the decision of OWWA for the repatriated OFWs, what I can tell you is we are ready to receive them,” he said.
Treñas said he is also preparing a resolution for barangays relative to the resolution of Inter-Agency Task Force that OFWs no longer have to be billeted in hotels but will go straight to their houses.
“Once that is effective, we will ask help from our barangay officials to monitor them,” he said.
The OFWs will be brought to the Jubilee hall for the swab and rapid tests. (PNA)
Photo Source: OWWA 6