PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has asked local government officials to allow entry to returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Makinig kayong local executives -- the national government will insist that you accept the OFWs. Magkakaroon ho tayo ng problema if you resist because then as a worker of the government, it falls upon my shoulders to see to it that everything is done fair,” Duterte said in a public address broadcast late Monday night, May 4.
“Itong mga Pilipinong babalik, hindi tinatanggap ng mga local governments; now, it will boil down to the power of the President to promulgate rules and regulations to protect public health; because some workers coming from the outside are not welcome, simply they are not being accepted by the local governments so mahirap ito,” he said.
There have been reports on stranded OFWs since local governments imposed community quarantine measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Duterte reminded authorities of every Filipino’s right to travel, quoting Section 3 of the Bill of Rights under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
“It is your duty to help and protect your constituents , I have no quarrel na you want the contagion stopped right there in your doorstep--but you know, Filipinos, are citizens of this country and whether we like it or not they have this constitutional right to travel and to come home after working there,” Duterte said.
Duterte urged LGU officials to accept OFWs who have been declared Covid-free after undergoing the 14-day facility-based quarantine.
“I would like to assure -- maghahanap ako ng paraan na tulungan kayo--if they are really cleared by the medical authorities, by the Department of Health (DOH)..then we have to make arrangement that they can go home,” Duterte said.
“Maghahanap tayo ng paraan ihahatid talaga natin sila doon we have stalemate here what do we do with people waiting tapos okay naman sila; so you have to go into a testing then find out that they are fit to return and that she or he is not a threat to the community,” he added.
According to National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr.,"mega swabbing areas" will be put up to take nasopharyngeal specimens from OFWs for testing using the real-time RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test.
”After they test negative, maybe after three days or four days they can go home already with the certification of the Bureau of Quarantine that they are Covid-free," Galvez said.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola reported that as of May 3, there are over 20,000 overseas workers who are undergoing mandatory quarantine in Manila.
Arriola assured that the repatriation of distressed Filipinos would resume once the suspension of inbound flights is lifted.
"To date, the DFA has facilitated the repatriation of 24,422, of which 16,936 are seafarers and 7,486 are land-based workers," she said. (SunStar Philippines)