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No six-day quarantine rule for OFW, ROF arriving in Cebu Province stays
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said Monday she was informed that three medical consultants in Manila have recommended that OFWs and ROFs must follow the six-day quarantine rule upon arrival, something that Garcia’s executive order in March 2021 scrapped.

No six-day quarantine rule for OFW, ROF arriving in Cebu Province stays

Le Phyllis F. Antojado (The Freeman) - May 4, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The protocol on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROF) in Cebu Province remain even as medical consultants of the Department of Health have recommended for local government units to adopt a “whole of nation approach” in COVID related protocols, including those that cover OFWs and ROFs.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said Monday she was informed that three medical consultants in Manila have recommended that OFWs and ROFs must follow the six-day quarantine rule upon arrival, something that Garcia’s executive order in March 2021 scrapped.

Garcia said the national government’s six-day quarantine rule is an additional burden not only on the part of the OFWs and ROFs but also on the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) that pays for the hotels used for quarantine.

Based on figures from OWWA, the agency will have to pay P924,000 for 220 Filipinos arriving in a single flight for a three-day stay at the holding hotel. If the OFWs or ROFs are required to quarantine for six days, OWWA will have to pay over P2 million on accommodation alone.

Garcia said most of those who have returned to Cebu came home for important reasons, not for leisure, and removing at least six days from their time in the country is additional burden.

"Kung mouli man ni sila, dili tungod kay duna silay tulo ka bulan nga mo-estar… at most two weeks ra gyud ang ihatag nila nga bakasyon. Kung ato ning pugson nga pa-estahon og hotel unom ka adlaw usa i-testing, maghulat sa resulta, maabtan pa og walo ka adlaw… gikuhaan na na nimo og walo ka adlaw nga unta ikakuyog niya iyang pamilya. Ug maayo unta kung niuli lang para bakasyon kani atong mga OFWs, lakip na mga ROFs… wala ni niuli aron maglulinghayaw… nanguli ni kay naay emergency, naay compelling reason,” Garcia said.

The executive order Garcia issued in March states that OFWs and ROFs shall undergo RT-PCR test at the airport for free and shall stay at a pre-booked hotel while waiting for the negative result of their test.

Garcia said this EO remains and will be strengthened by an ordinance the Provincial Board will pass.

Systems in place

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH-7 chief pathologist and spokesperson, said Cebu can manage to implement the EO because it has its systems in place.

“We actually said that this is only for us here. We are not recommending it for national adaptation. The reason is very simple: We have the protocols, systems, and processes,” Loreche said.

She said she understands that the virus may not be detected during the time an OFW is tested upon arrival because of the incubation period “but, then again, we also have to remember, that because our systems and processes are already in place, we can afford to do the testing upon arrival and when they are negative, they are released to their LGUs subject to compliance of the quarantine and of course, the testing protocols in that LGU.”

Loreche said the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERT) are very active in the LGUs and are coordinating closely with DOH and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

She said that while “there may be a possibility that we miss them (virus) out” on Day 1 upon arrival, there is also a chance that the virus will not be detected by the sixth or seventh day when the viral load has already gone down.

“Either way, it can be defeating the purpose. What matters is the close collaboration and coordination of every agency,” Loreche said.

Garcia, for her part, also invoked the Local Government Code, particularly Section 105 (Direct National Supervision and Control by the Secretary of Health), which states that "In cases of epidemics, pestilence, and other widespread public health dangers, the Secretary of Health may, upon the direction of the President and in consultation with the local government unit concerned, temporarily assume direct supervision and control over health operations in any local government unit for the duration of the emergency, but in no case exceeding a cumulative period of six (6) months. With the concurrence of the local government unit concerned, the period for such direct national control and supervision may be further extended."

Garcia said it has been over a year since the start of the pandemic.

“I shall invoke and I am invoking section 105, this is not to say that we will not listen to your recommendation but any imposition will have to be with concurrence of the Province of Cebu,” she said.

Situation Managed

Garcia said Cebu is “doing well” in managing the COVID-19 crisis. She said that even with the easing of protocols on arriving OFWs, the number of COVID cases in the province continued to decrease, from March 31 to May 1.

Data from the provincial government showed that its cases are down to 668 from the 1,057 on March 31.

“With all our protocols and processes in place, there is no way that we cannot learn to live with COVID-19. This is a clear example of how an open economy is with COVID-19 still around. And at the end of the day, it is a shared responsibility of everyone,” Loreche said. — Caecent No-ot Magsumbol, JMO  (FREEMAN)

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