Around 8,000 test result certificates are still being processed and readied for printing to allow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stuck in quarantine facilities to go home.
"Eight thousand [certificates] pending validation will be released soon," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a message to Rappler, quoting figures from testing czar Vince Dizon on Saturday, May 23.
The government had managed to release around 22,000 certificates so far.
OFWs who have not been issued certificates have spent weeks – in some cases, over a month – waiting for the document in order to see their families, despite finishing the 14-day quarantine. (WATCH: OFWs in prolonged quarantine because of delayed COVID-19 test results)
Malacañang admitted there were problems that led to the long delays.
"There were initial problems, especially in the beginning with the encoding and verification of the OFWs because of the sheer volume, but now it's moving faster," Roque told Rappler.
"We feel the pain of our OFWs but everything is being done to do this faster and more efficiently," he added.
Keeping the wait to 5 days. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Diseases (IATF-EID) wants to ensure that returning OFWs have to wait only up to 5 days after undergoing quarantine and getting their test result before they are released.
"The IATF commited that, from henceforth, the timeframe will be limited. In about 5 days, our OFWs should be released," he said on Saturday, during a Laging Handa press briefing.
"During our meeting yesterday, I insisted that, with respect to our OFWs, after going to the process of quarantine and swabbing, there needs to be a definite timeline wherein after those processes, they can already leave," Bello explained.
OFWs returning from abroad are required to go into quarantine for 14 days in facilities prepared by the government before they can go back to their home cities or towns.
But instead of being able to return after the 14 days, OFWs have had to wait for weeks for the government to give them certificates they need to be allowed to enter their hometowns. (READ: Stranded because of lockdown? Here's what you need to know)
The wait has been aggravating for OFWs and is also taxing on government resources since it's the government that shoulders their accommodations.
Coronavirus response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr warned that facilities could be overwhelmed by some 42,000 more OFWs expected to arrive in May and June. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.