By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY – At least 234 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are set to arrive from Metro Manila despite the initial refusal of local officials of Western Visayas region to let them return to their hometowns.
In a statement, the Western Visayas regional inter-agency task force for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) confirmed that the OFWs were set to arrive late Tuesday night in Bacolod City, and early Wednesday morning in Iloilo City.
“We would like to reiterate that only OFWs who were tested negative during the rapid testing, those who showed no symptoms of COVID-19, and those with complete documents were allowed to board the vessel,” said Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Regional Director Jose Roberto Nuñez, who also chairs the region’s COVID-19 task force.
The 2Go vessel carrying the OFWs, mostly seafarers, left Manila Monday night despite the reluctance local officials in the region to accept them.
Mayors and governors cited lack of proper coordination and explained that local government units (LGUs) had no time to prepare as LGUs are tasked to provide isolation areas once the OFW arrive for another round of 14-day quarantine.
The provincial government of Negros Occidental was the first to express refusal to accept the OFWs. This was followed by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., but he later said that the inter-agency task force already made arrangements.
Despite lack of facilities from LGUs, Nuñez assured that repatriated OFWs will be staying at hotels. The Department of Tourism (DOT) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are arranging for their accommodation.
“We have secured the availability of enough rooms from various hotels. We would like to assure that our partner hotels were properly briefed on how to handle the OFWs,” Nuñez said.
LGUs have earlier been reluctant to allow passage to repatriated OFWs after three who came home to Iloilo and two others from Negros Occidental tested positive for COVID-19.