MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – As returning overseas Filipino workers remained stranded in Metro Manila for too long, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that quarantine for OFWs stuck in the capital region will be shortened to a maximum of 5 days.
Lorenzana, the overall head of the National Task Force COVID-19, gave this update to President Rodrigo Duterte during a taped address, aired on Friday, June 5.
“Napagkasunduan namin, Mr. President, na pagka-dumating ‘yung OFW, maximum araw na manatali sila sa Manila ay limang araw lang,” Lorenzana said. (We have agreed, Mr President, that when an OFW returns to the country, the maximum number of days he will stay in Metro Manila is 5 days only.)
“It could be less but the maximum is 5 days,” he added.
Thousands of OFWs were stuck in quarantine facilities around Metro Manila beyond the mandated 14-day isolation, due to delayed test results and processing of documents. (READ: OFWs struggle through prolonged quarantine in gov’t ‘VIP treatment’)
On May 25, the President ordered the Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and Department of Health to bring home some 24,000 OFWs.
Lorenzana explained that they are prioritizing the repatriation of OFWs and seafarers, and “don’t want a repeat of the previous months.”
“We have enough testing facilities now all over Metro Manila and kayang-kaya ho natin ‘yung darating ngayon (we can accommodate the OFWs that will be arriving),” Lorenzana said. Earlier, the NTF said the influx of returning OFWs can overwhelm quarantine facilities.
The government is expecting over 16,000 OFWs to return to the country this June.
On Saturday, June 6, NTF COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr said the government planned to cut down the waiting time of OFWs by using different airports to avoid congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and by digitizing processes and documents needed by workers.
This is similar to the Philippine Coast Guard’s move to provide OFWs with digital copies of their quarantine certificates, after thousands of workers were unable to leave quarantine over missing documents despite having received their negative test results and completing the mandatory 14 days of isolation.
Galvez said concerned agencies would also closely coordinate with local government units to facilitate the transfer of OFWs to their home towns.
“We will improve the management of returning OFWs and Seafarers (quarantine procedures), magiging five days or even shorter na lang ang stay nila dito sa quarantine hotels while waiting for their test results. Gagawin lahat ng agencies ang coordination with LGUs (local government units), while waiting and arranging for their return trip to their places” Galvez said in an interview on PTV.
Aside from this, Galvez said the NTF continued to purchase personal protective equipment for health workers. – Rappler.com
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