By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY—After a repatriated Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), other OFWs who want to come home to Western Visayas region must present proof that they are not infected.
In a resolution, the Western Visayas Regional Task Force for COVID-19 agreed to only allow passage to OFWs “whose test results are negative.”
The April 13, 2020 resolution, which was released Wednesday, made it mandatory for repatriated OFWs to undergo COVID-19 testing prior to arriving in the region comprising of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental provinces as well as the cities of Iloilo and Bacolod.
“This is to ensure the general welfare of repatriates and the safety of residents,” the resolution emphasized.
The resolution, signed by Western Visayas Regional Directors Jose Roberto Nuñez of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Marlyn Convocar of the Department of Health (DOH) and Ariel Iglesia of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), as well as Ma. Aletha Nogra of OCD, aims to address concerns that repatriated OFWs may trigger a wave of local COVID-19 transmissions.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., and mayors of towns in Iloilo province previously criticized the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for allowing stranded OFWs to leave Cebu without conducting any COVID-19 test.
The OFW who tested positive for COVID-19 was only given health clearances in Cebu as he was asymptomatic and completed the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the country. But it was only when he arrived in Iloilo City last April 9 that he tested positive.
The regional task force’s decision to only allow passage to OFWs with negative COVID-19 test results deviates from the national inter-agency task force’s resolution that gives “unhampered access to OFWS.”
Regional authorities are only going to acknowledge COVID-19 test results of OFWs from DOH-accredited testing centers.