BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — Officials of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City were caught by surprise following the mass arrival of overseas Filipino workers in the province on Monday, May 25.
A total of 468 OFWs came back to the province in a single day – 240 arrived in two sweeper flights and another 228 on a sea vessel. More are expected to turn up in the next two days.
Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, in a press conference Tuesday, May 26, lamented there was no coordination between the national and the provincial governments on the return of the OFWs, which is part of the national government’s three-day nationwide mass repatriation program.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government, in a memorandum issued May 25, ordered all governors, city and municipal mayors, chiefs of police, and DILG officials to facilitate the “unhampered mass transport of repatriated OFWs to all regions of the country.”
“I just want to make it clear with IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force), we are not impeding the return of these OFWs. We just want to make sure that when they come here, there is enough facility to accommodate them,” Lacson said.
He said, “there is no coordination and everybody was surprised.”
He added that they just have to implement what the President wanted, and “everybody was caught unaware, but we’re doing our best to accommodate these OFWs.”
He also said that the arriving OFWs will not go through the 14-day quarantine as they already have in Manila.
Upon arrival, they were brought to a processing facility and will be tested with RT-PCR, he said. “If they are tested negative, they will be sent home, but will be isolated if they tested positive,” he added.
Currently, there are 283 available rooms in the province, he said.
He also asked the local government units in the province to prepare their own quarantine facility in case the province’s quarantine facility won’t be able to accommodate.
No to home quarantine
Lacson said that it is “very important” to hold the returning OFWs under the watch of the provincial government to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus disease.
“If they would go home, it would cause us a problem. That is why we’re doing best to keep them here and make sure that the test result will come out before they will be released,” he said.
He added that the local government units will have to isolate them if the province can’t accommodate them.
He stressed, “we will have a problem if they will do home quarantine.”
Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia also said they were caught by surprise to receive a memo from the DILG on May 25, telling them to prepare for the mass arrival of thousands of OFWs on that day.
The DILG letter, signed by Undersecretary for Operations Epimaco Densing III, said more than 24,000 OFWs stranded in Metro Manila shall be transported to their respective provinces and cities at an estimate of 8,000 OFWs per day using various modes of transport – air, land, and sea – for 3 days, starting May 25 until May 27.
Leonardia said he was appealing to owners of hotels, inns, and pension houses to make their rooms available for returning OFWs.
“This is a time that we appeal to your sense of public service or even a sense of patriotism. This is a matter where our national interest is of utmost concern. We appeal for your cooperation and participation in assisting our stranded OFWs,” the mayor said in his appeal. – Rappler.com