By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY – City Mayor Jerry Treñas has had a change of heart, and will now be allowing stranded Ilonggo overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to come home.
Treñas disclosed that he was planning to charter flights that would fetch Ilonggo OFWs who have been stranded in Cebu and Manila since strict quarantine measures were implemented in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
This came after Treñas, who had been dubbed as one of the country’s “model mayors” in handling COVID-19 responses, was publicly criticized for allegedly allowing a woman to fly in from Metro Manila on a chartered flight, only for her to test positive for the coronavirus when she was already here.
Residents cried foul upon learning that the 51-year-old woman, reportedly the daughter of city legal officer Edgardo Gil, was only tested when she arrived in Iloilo from Metro Manila last April 19 via a chartered helicopter ride.
There was a prior protocol, requiring hundreds of Ilonggo OFWs stranded in Metro Manila and Cebu to get tested for COVID-19 prior to their trip home.
To recall, Treñas was the first among local officials to ban the entry of non-tested OFWs after one from the first batch of repatriates who arrived last April 9 tested positive for COVID-19. Treñas said he did not want OFWs to be carriers of COVID-19.
At that time, Treñas also blamed Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) for allegedly breaching protocol while accusing several of the repatriated OFWs they were undocumented.
Treñas has also explained that the woman, who was allowed to return to Iloilo but later tested positive for COVID-19, had volunteered to carry test kits for the coronavirus on her trip from Manila.
Meanwhile, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. is initiating a separate program to repatriate the stranded OFWs with the help of the Western Visayas regional offices of OWWA, Department of Tourism (DOT) and Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
The Philippine Red Cross-Iloilo Chapter also vowed to provide COVID-19 tests for the stranded OFWs.