SENATORS Francis Tolentino and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III are the new additions of lawmakers supporting the swab-upon-arrival policy of Cebu Province for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).
Tolentino said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) should ease the burden of arriving passengers in Mactan who were mostly OFWs from various parts of the globe--some of them were even displaced in their respective jobs abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Dagdag pahirap lang po sa mga pauwi nating kababayan. Marami po sa kanila ay napilitan lamang umuwi dahil nawalan sila ng trabaho sa ibayong-dagat dahil sa pandemyang nararanasan natin sa kasalukuyan," said Tolentino.
Arriving OFWs and Filipinos based abroad need to undergo a mandatory RT-PCR Covid-19 swab test upon arrival in MCIA under Executive Order No. 17 issued recently by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.
The said policy of the Cebu Provincial Government led to the National Government's action to divert all Cebu-bound international flights to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Tolentino, chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government stressed that diverting all Cebu-bound international flights will only add anxiety to arriving passengers especially to those displaced OFWs since staying for an extended time in Manila means additional expenses and waste of money for returning passengers.
Meanwhile, Senator Pimentel pointed out that some OFWs and ROFs are being required to undergo “double quarantine”, first upon arrival and second upon reaching their respective hometowns.
“This requirement is excessive. Umuwi yung kababayan natin para makasama ang pamilya pero inubos natin ang mga araw niya sa quarantine!”, Pimentel expounded.
“Our hardworking OFWs and ROFs are often only given a short period of time by their employers to come home to visit their families. We do not want that period to be spent on quarantine alone, away from home. I am appealing to our government to study and implement the ‘swab-upon-arrival’ policy”, Pimentel said.
Pimentel said that “We should give value to the scientific results of the RT-PCR Tests, the so-called gold standard in testing for Covid-19. Our returning kababayans, who are coming from other countries, can be tested upon arrival to see if they are infected upon arrival, and if results are negative, then they should be immediately released to finish the 14-day quarantine in their homes. On the 7th day from arrival, they should be swabbed again to comply with the directive of the IATF, this time the purpose is to check if they got the virus while here in the Philippines”.
The Senator further explained that it is important to listen to feedback especially from those affected by the quarantine protocols. “Our OFWs and ROFs are directly affected by this and are already voicing out their concerns. Again, I support and understand the efforts of the government on effective quarantine protocols but there is room for more compassionate and reasonable regulations which do not compromise on the need for virus testing,” Pimentel added. (PR)