By Aaron Recuenco
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now preparing for the exodus of more than 24,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who were already allowed to go home after staying weeks and even months in various quarantine centers in Metro Manila and nearby areas.
Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield and PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, said they have already instructed all police commanders nationwide to assist in the transport of the OFWs to their respective points of destination based on the guidance of PNP chief General Archie Gamboa.
“Our Chief PNP has already alerted all police commanders nationwide to prepare for the arrival of our OFWS in the coming days, starting today (Monday),” said Eleazar.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier ordered concerned government agencies to expedite the return of the stranded OFWs to their homes amid reports of the suffering and difficulties of the OFWs in the quarantine sites.
Thousands of OFWs have already expressed anger over how they were treated, especially on the delay of their travel to be with their families.
Based on the protocol, all arriving OFWs must undergo 14 days of quarantine and must be tested in order to ensure that they are negative for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). But the quarantine dragged on for months for some of the OFWs.
Eleazar said the President’s order comes with an instruction to protect the OFWs from harassment and other forms of discrimination, the reason why police assistance is needed to ensure that they will safely return to their homes.
He said that based on the instruction of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, the OFWs who were subjected to mandatory quarantine will be released from the quarantine sites of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) from Monday, May 25, to Wednesday, May 27.
They will be fetched from their respective quarantine sites and will immediately be transported to various transport hubs for the land, air, and sea travels back to their hometowns.
“As per SILG (Año), the plan is to transport 8,000 who have already finished the mandatory quarantine and tested negative in their RT-PCR Test every day from May 25 to May 27,” said Eleazar.
The buses will be available for the OFWs whose destinations are Bicol, Ilocos Region, and other parts of Luzon. There will be available flights to Cagayan de Oro, Tacloban, Bacolod, Davao City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, and Zamboanga City. More buses, ships, and flights will be available for the stranded OFWs on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Eleazar said police commanders have been advised to facilitate the smooth travel of the returning OFWs amid possibilities that they may be barred entry in their hometowns.
“If it requires that we escort the vehicles of our returning OFWs, so be it. The instruction of our SILG and Chief PNP is to ensure that we provide all the necessary assistance for them on their travel back home,” said Eleazar.
“For as long as the OFWs have with them copies of Quarantine Certificate from the Bureau of Quarantine and a proof that they are on the list of those who tested negative for COVID-19, their travel back to their homes should not be denied and delayed,” he added.
Eleazar said that local police forces in the points of destination of the OFWs are also expected to take the lead in ironing out any glitches that may arise in the arrival of the OFWS in their respective areas of responsibility.