Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Espinoza: The President’s promise!

Free Zone

WOULD Malacañang pay for the hotel expenses of the returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs)? It’s a one-peso question that the ROFs and the Province of Cebu, particularly Gov. Gwen Garcia, would love to know the answer to in relation to the health protocols that the Inter-agency Task Force-Department of Health (IATF-DOH) imposed on homebound ROFs and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the international ports of the country.

To recall, there was sort of tug-of-war between the health protocols that the Province of Cebu implemented through PB Ordinance 2021-04 and the health protocols that the IATF-DOH imposed nationwide. However, the IATF-DOH officials insisted on the body’s policy during their face-to-face meeting last week at Capitol with Gov. Garcia and other provincial officials. As expected, the national health protocols prevailed over PB Ordinance 2021-04.

Cebu Provincial Board Member John Ismael Borgonia, during their Monday’s session, authored a resolution reminding the IATF-DOH on the promise of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for the National Government to shoulder the expenses for the hotel stay of the ROFs during the 10-day quarantine period. The Owwa shoulders the OFW’s hotel stay.

Pardon me, but during the clash of opinions with the IATF-DOH officials over which health protocols should be implemented at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) for the arriving ROFs and OFWs, and if my memory serves me right, Gov. Garcia emphatically said that Capitol would pay for the ROFs’ 10-day quarantine in the hotel.

I hope Malacañang would not take advantage of the governor’s prior pronouncements.

PB Ordinance 2021-04, formerly the governor’s Executive Order 17, is aimed at assisting the ROFs shorten their quarantine in the hotel since they will be swab-tested upon arrival at the MCIA and allowed to go home three days after when their test is negative of Covid-19; hence, less expense for the ROFs.

In the IATF-DOH protocols, the ROFs or OFWs, upon their arrival, are directly brought to the quarantine hotels and swab-tested on the seventh day and released on the 10th day if the test is negative.

The big question here is, will the National Government acknowledge the request of the Cebu Provincial Board through its resolution and shoulder the hotel expenses of the ROFs during their quarantine period as mandated by the IATF-DOH health protocols? Because if President Duterte would approve it, the implementation is nationwide and applies to all the ROFs and not only for those arriving at the MCIA. The other question is, does the IATF-DOH have the budget for the ROFs?

This is my take and I could be wrong with my perception. Knowing the President’s temperament that, if pushed, some political consequences would not be remote if Capitol would insist on what they want from Malacañang. No, I’m not trying to scare the Capitol officials and I know how strong-willed Gov. Garcia is. But with the Covid-19 pandemic still much with us and not to forget the coming May 9, 2022 elections, they better follow the national leadership’s guidelines on how to combat this deadly virus.

What the IATF-DOH experts are scared of is the Delta virus that, according to them, may not be immediately detected if the ROFs or OFWs are swab-tested upon their arrival. Hence, the need for them to be quarantined and swab-tested on the seventh day. It’s definitely an additional burden for the ROFs, but they have no choice. Perhaps, the Cebu Provincial Government could provide financial assistance to them, but not necessarily paying for everything because they are presumed to have the money since they could afford to travel abroad.


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