A TOTAL of 462 Cebuano overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Metro Manila are expected to arrive in Cebu City via two separate boat trips on Saturday, May 23, 2020.
This apart from 313 other OFWs who are also on board the vessels but are bound for other areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Erick Salcedo, Philippine Coast Guard-Central Visayas (PCG 7) spokesperson, said the stranded OFWs who were allowed to go home under the interagency program for the repatriation of OFWs are being ferried by two 2Go vessels, the mv St. Francis Xavier and mv St. Michael the Archangel.
"They have already been swab-tested using the polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. They already yielded negative results (for novel coronavirus)," he said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
He said first to depart from Manila was the mv St. Michael the Archangel at around 9 a.m., Friday, May 22.
Its estimated time of arrival at Pier 5 in Cebu City is between 9 to 10 a.m., Saturday.
Salcedo said 401 returning OFWs are on board the vessel which has the following routes: Manila to Cebu City, Cebu City to Dumaguete City, Dumaguete City to Ozamiz City, Ozamiz City to Iligan City, and Iligan City to Zamboanga City.
Of the 401 passengers, 253 OFWs are bound for Cebu City; 33 for Dumaguete City; 73 for Ozamiz City; six for Iligan City, and 36 for Zamboanga City.
Almost four hours after the mv St. Michael the Archangel left Manila, the mv St. Francis Xavier, which has 374 OFWs on board departed at around 1 p.m., Friday.
The MV St. Francis Xavier has the following routes: Manila to Cebu, Cebu to Butuan City, and Butuan City to Cagayan de Oro City.
It is expected to arrive at Pier 5, Cebu City at noon, Saturday.
Of the 374 OFWs on board the vessel, 209 are bound for Cebu City, 75 for Butuan City, and 90 for Cagayan de Oro.
As of this writing, Salcedo said they had yet to check on whether the arriving OFWs are seafarers or land-based overseas workers or a combination of both.
The two vessels were supposed to leave Manila on Thursday night, May 21.
"However, the screening that we did was stringent to ensure that all of them had been cleared and their papers were complete before they were allowed to board,” Salcedo said.
Upon their arrival in Cebu, the OFWs will be made to undergo rapid testing and then brought to quarantine facilities for the mandatory 14-day isolation.
The designated quarantine facilities are the same hotels in Cebu City which were used to house the first batch of returning OFWs last April, Salcedo said.
Meanwhile, the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) and the Bureau of Fire Protection 7, will conduct disinfection and decontamination of the port area before and after the arrival of the OFWs.
Maryknoll Lague, CPA public relations officer, said the CPA will follow stringent health protocols consistent with the guidelines provided by the Department of Health 7.
"All assisting personnel should wear complete personal protective equipment (PPE) and we have secured the arrival area to avoid contact with other port workers. CPA will also prepare the registration area and set up WiFi for ready downloading of the WeTrace App for monitoring and tracing," she said.
The PCG last Thursday, May 21, announced that 14,669 OFWs in various quarantine centers have been issued a quarantine clearance after they tested negative for the novel coronavirus and completed the mandatory 14-day facility-based quarantine.
The quarantine certificates may be downloaded from www.quarantine.doh.gov.ph.
These are also published on the PCG website and Facebook page, along with the list of OFWs who have been cleared to go home and their corresponding laboratory test results.
The arrival of more OFWs in the next few weeks could lead to a spike in coronavirus infections across the country, National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Friday, May 22.
“We had a meeting in Malacańang with key secretaries and we talked on preparations for a second wave (of Covid infections). We foresee a spike in some places because of the importation of transmission through the huge influx of OFWs,” he said during a Laging Handa online briefing on Friday.
At least 30,000 OFWs who have been displaced by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic have been repatriated.
Galvez said they expect around 42,000 more to come home over the next few weeks.
He said they have estimated the number of OFWs who will be displaced by the pandemic at 150,000 to 500,000.
Galvez said the returning migrant workers come from areas that are greatly affected by the pandemic such as the United States of America (USA), Spain, and Italy.
He said of the estimated 30,000 OFWs who were tested, only 2.0 percent or around 600 were found positive for the novel coronavirus, or Sars-CoV-2.
“So that’s why we are looking at a possible second wave,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)