Solon fumes as DFA, OWWA differ on protocols for OFWS

Published April 27, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ellson Quismorio

A House leader is frustrated over the conflicting statements of officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which have added to the stress of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) already dealing with the difficulties of the pandemic.

Members of DOH Quarantine Team escort the repatriated OFWs who will undergo to quarantine at Manila Price Hotel in Manila as part of precautionary measures against COVID-19 on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (Photo by Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)
Members of DOH Quarantine Team escort the repatriated OFWs who will undergo to quarantine at Manila Price Hotel in Manila as part of precautionary measures against COVID-19 on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (Photo by Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

“It’s very unfortunate that the noble undertaking of President Duterte to ensure public safety and the health of our beloved OFWs has been jeopardized by clashing or conflicting statements among our officials, sending many people in a panic and local government officials to confusion,” Zamboanga Sibugay 1st district Rep. Wilter “Sharky” Wee Palma II said.

Palma, a Deputy Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, was referring to DFA Undersecretary Brigido “Dodo” Dulay and OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac.

The lawmaker face-palmed over an online media briefing last Saturday wherein Dulay and Cacdac couldn’t seem to agree how the government should handle returning OFWs amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Dulay claimed that OFWs who underwent 14-day quarantine abroad will be allowed to go straight to their homes upon their arrival in the Philippines, while Cacdac maintained that all returning OFWs, even asymptomatic ones, are mandated to undergo a 14-day quarantine in facilities and hotels being provided by the government.

“This is a clear case of too many cooks spoiling the broth,” commented Palma. He reckoned that it is the duty of the state to give a clear message that would guide the people toward peace, stability and calmness.

“I even heard the story of 300 OFWs from the United States who were escorted by the Philippine Coast Guard straight to Pier 15 upon their arrival in Manila. They were held there for seven hours without food only to be turned over to OWWA later for quarantine. The point is na-exposed lalo sila sa isat-isa habang nasa holding area or nasa bus. Bakit hindi na lamang dinala kaagad sa quarantine facility (they were all more exposed to each other while inside the holding area or bus. Why weren’t they brought to the quarantine facility at once)?” a disappointed Palma asked.

Spokesperson for OFW issues

To avoid similar incidents happening in the future, the Mindanao solon asked the national government designate a spokesperson who will answer all media queries concerning the return of OFWs and how they are going to return to their provinces, especially in areas undergoing a transition in status from the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to the less stringent General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

“I urge the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) to make clear, concise, and sound guidelines. At ‘wag yung basta na lang may Secretary, or any of their subordinates, na-magpa interview sa media and sabihin niya ang kanyang interpretation sa guidelines (A Secretary or any of his or her subordinates shouldn’t give media interviews just to give his or her interpretation of the guidelines),” he said.

“Let someone talk for and on behalf of the national government. ‘Wag ‘yung ang daming nagsasalita (We don’t need too many people talking). It really gets confusing on the part of the LGUs,” Palma said.

The Mindanao solon went on to suggest that returning OFWs who have undergone quarantine from their origin country should be transported directly to their respective provinces by either OWWA or the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“Pagdating nila sa localitites nila ‘wag muna sila pauwiin ng bahay (Once they get to their localities they shouldn’t be allowed to go home yet) but rather put them in a 14-day quarantine in a quarantine-designated area, whether it’s in their barangay or municipality or city. At least masisilayan nila agad mga pamilya nila (At least they can see their families immediately),” he said.

“For those who did not undergo quarantine abroad prior to their flight, they should be sent directly to Clark or wherever is the designated area for a 14-day quarantine,” Palma said. (Ellson A. Quismorio)

 
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