MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang took exception to criticism from labor group Migrante International that the Duterte government has treated overseas Filipino workers “like garbage” in its efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque insisted that the government is giving OFWs “VIP treatment.”
“Inuwi po natin lahat ng manggagawa natin. Binigyan namin ng libreng PCR testing, binigyan natin ng libreng pamasahe sa eroplano, sa bus, at sa barko. Hindi po ‘yan garbage-like treatment. VIP treatment po ‘yan,” said Roque on Saturday, May 30.
(We brought home all our workers. We gave them free PCR testing, we gave them free transportation via airplane, bus, and boat. That’s not garbage-like treatment. That’s VIP treatment.)
Migrante International had earlier condemned the government for its “ineptitude” in properly managing the droves of migrant workers returning from abroad and who need to be quarantined as a safeguard against the pandemic.
“More than a month after being stuck in NCR (National Capital Region), OFWs complain that they are being dumped like garbage in Metro Manila’s airport terminals,” Migrante International said on Friday, May 29.
“It cannot be denied that our repatriated kababayans are being made to feel the maximum brunt of the Duterte regime’s ineptitude,” the group added.
Plight of OFWs
The labor group described OFWs they encountered in airports as famished and made to wait for provincial flights like “outcasts.”
Meals arrive late and some of the repatriates are “penniless” after waiting for a month for medical services and financial aid, Migrante said.
Media have also reported OFWs stranded in quarantine facilities for weeks as they wait for coronavirus test results. (WATCH: OFWs in prolonged quarantine because of delayed COVID-19 test results)
The Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) admitted that there was a backlog of 8,000 certificates that still needed to be validated and printed to allow the OFWs to return to their families.
To solve this, the task force said it would try to ensure the release of OFWs from quarantine facilities within 5 days of their completion of the 14-day quarantine.
The issue prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to order government to fast-track the return of OFWs to their hometowns. But the order was implemented hastily, with local chief executives like Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez bemoaning the lack of coordination by the national government.
Some fresh coronavirus cases in some areas, including Leyte, were beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya program.
Local governments impose their own health protocols on returning OFWs in order to protect their citizens from infections. – Rappler.com