By Glazyl Masculino
BACOLOD CITY – Fifty-two overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated from Manila arrived here on Tuesday night.
Of the total figure, 28 were Bacolod residents, while the 24 others were from other parts of Negros Occidental. The OFWs arrived at the Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco) port onboard M/V St. Leo the Great of 2GO Group past 7 p.m., and were picked up by the buses of the city government and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The 28 OFWs from Bacolod comprised the first batch of returning OFWs directly received by the city government, through the Action Team on Returning OFWs (ATRO), created by Mayor Evelio Leonardia and chaired by Councilor Israel Salanga. They were those who got stranded in Manila due to the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The 28 repatriates were immediately brought to one of the city’s quarantine centers while the 24 others were taken into the provincial healing center in E.B. Magalona town to undergo another 14-day mandatory quarantine.
“They must be tested negative of COVID-19 before they will be sent home,” Salanga said.
Salanga said the city has already established a protocol on receiving the returning OFWs, including readying the facilities that will house them while on quarantine. The city is committed to strictly observe the health protocols on handling returning OFWs, he added.
Upon arrival at the quarantine center, the luggage of the OFWs, as well as the buses, were thoroughly disinfected by personnel from the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO). Councilor Renecito Novero chairs the Quarantine Centers Action Team.
Some of the returning OFWs, in media interviews, have expressed gratitude to the city government for allowing them to come home and for taking care of them while on quarantine.
Meanwhile, the city is closely coordinating with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for the next batch of returning Bacolodnon OFWs.
Earlier, Leonardia has urged OWWA to closely coordinate with the city government of Bacolod and the provincial government of Negros Occidental regarding the policies and protocols on repatriating OFWs who are already in Manila.
Leonardia said the city government does not want a recurrence of the experience of the provincial government last April 14, when 35 Negrense OFWs were allowed to come home, supposedly with health and quarantine clearances from the Department of Health (DOH), but two of them were found positive for COVID-19 upon arrival here.
“This experience has taught us of the need to impose our own health protocols for the safety of the families of these OFWs and that of the rest of our people who are already agitated and paranoid about ‘imported’ infections,” he added.