7,500 OFWs sent back to their hometowns after prolonged quarantine

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
7,500 OFWs sent back to their hometowns after prolonged quarantine
This photo taken May 26 shows stranded Overseas Filipino Workers who will be flown back to their home provinces through the 18 chartered flights of the Department of Transportation as part of the government's“Hatid Probinsya Para sa mga OFWs” program.
Department of Transportation / released

MANILA, Philippines — The government has sent home 7,500 returning migrant workers to their hometowns, two days since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the use of government resources to ferry home quarantined OFWs who had been waiting in isolation for weeks if not months, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said.

The Palace on Monday said Duterte ordered OWWA, the Deparment of Labor and Employment and Department of Health to “ensure that all 24,000 OFWs who are awaiting for their test results will go home to their respective provinces.”

In the first two days since the presidential directive, the government has sent 7,500 OFWs to their home provinces., OWWA Administator Hans Leo Cacdac said at the Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday.

Cacdac said they are expecting the number to rise as ships have been committed to ferry more OFWs back to their home provinces on Wednesday .

The OWWA administrator said they target to send home thousands of other OFWs still in isolation facilities across Metro Manila within Duterte’s deadline, or until Sunday.

The Philippine Coast Guard, in a separate release, said that as of May 26, the “Hatid Probinsya” program for OFWs has flown 5,450 OFWs to their home province while 1,677 were transported by land.

OFWs stuck in quarantine hotels across Metro Manila have complained of their prolonged isolation—many of whom have been waiting far beyond the mandatory 14-day quarantine—while waiting for their COVID-19 test results and clearance certificates.

National Task Force on COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez, who is also presidential peace adviser, warned last week that 42,000 more OFWs arriving in the Philippines in the coming weeks may overwhelm the country’s isolation facilities.

LGUs who will turn away returning OFWs may face charges

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra warned that local government units who will bar returning migrant workers from entering their locality may face administrative and criminal complaints.

“The president has already given instructions to all [local government units] to accept the returning 24,000 OFWs to their hometowns,” said Guevarra in a message to reporters.

“If LGU officials continue to defy this directive, they may be held administratively and criminally liable for violations of the Bayanihan Act,” the justice chief added.

Guevarra also reiterated that the National Prosecution Service is focusing on complaints filed related to the implementation of the Bayanihan law, including raps over alleged anomalies in distribution of the government cash aid.

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