Thursday, December 09, 2021

Seafarer groups appeal to IATF to adopt swab-upon-arrival policy

(Photo from Sugbo News website)

FOUR seafarer groups formally appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) to adopt Cebu Provincial Government’s swab-upon-arrival policy for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).

These groups are:

• Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines (ISP)

• Mariners' and Allied Transport Employees Union (MATEU)

• Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SONAME)

• ANGKLA Partylist

In a letter, they also asked IATF to revisit its policies for OFWs and ROFs.

They described Cebu’s swab-upon-arrival policy as “more practical and responsive to the needs of the times.”

For them, the policy eases the burden of returning seafarers.

Seafarers comprise 25 percent of the global maritime workforce and are recognized as essential workers by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“Our returning seafarers had already been out on the sea for an extended period of time, even way beyond the expiration of their employment contracts. This is due to the limited capacity to transfer them from their ships to their home countries,” the groups said.

They said that mandating them to undergo the 10-day facility-based quarantine upon arrival “places them in a more difficult situation as opposed to when they are immediately tested upon arrival allowing them to go home to their families at once upon a negative result.”

They described Cebu’s swab and quarantine rules as “more attuned with acceptable protocols that health organizations throughout the world adhere to.”

On March 31, 2021, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order 17 that mandates the implementation of the swab-upon-arrival policy.

READ: Garcia invites IATF experts to shed light on protocols

Under this policy, OFWs and ROFs arriving in Cebu from abroad are tested upon arrival for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

While waiting for the results, OFWs and ROFs stay in accredited hotels for a period of only two to three days. The current national policy mandates a 10-day quarantine and swabbing on the seventh day from arrival.

If they test negative, they are allowed to go home to continue their quarantine. On the seventh day, a swab test would again be conducted in compliance with the IATF directive.

Garcia’s order was later adopted into a local law through Provincial Ordinance 2021-04.

The seafarer groups also backed the call of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter to “reconcile and harmonize the policies, rules, regulations, and procedures as regards arriving OFWs and ROFs” by adopting Garcia’s swab policy.

READ: Cebu lawyers group supports Cebu's swab-upon-arrival policy

"Our returning seafarers are already subjected to strict tests in the respective countries where they come from before they are sent to the Philippines. They are closely monitored and their body temperatures are recorded every day while onboard the vessels. Proper health protocols are also strictly observed and implemented while in ports to prevent the transfer of the dreaded Covid-19 virus," they said. (NRC, PR)


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