By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday urged the government to scale up the quarantine facilities for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Recto, in a statement, said OFWs should be treated “as returning heroes who have sacrificed so much for their country” and be allowed to go home to their families without delay if found negative for COVID-19 and after completing the two-week quarantine.
Thousands of repatriated Filipinos are stuck in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila due to the delay in the release of their testing results and certificates proving that they have undergone the 14-day mandatory isolation.
“Makaraan ang mahabang taong sakripisyo, gusto nang umuwi ng mga stranded na OFWs sa mga bahay na kanilang pinundar, sa mga bayang tinulungan nilang lumago, sa mga anak na kanilang pinaaral (After years of sacrifices, stranded OFWs want to go home to the homes that they built, to the towns they helped grow, and the children they sent to schools),” Recto said.
“Hindi sila dapat maging stranded sa sariling bayan (They should not be stranded in their own country),” he said.
Recto said that while waiting for their test results, the OFWs should be quarantined in comfortable lodgings.
The Senate Leader also proposed to open more airports to receive the returning OFWs.
“Let us study the option of opening more airports to chartered flights from abroad, in cities where struggling hotels can earn money for hosting OFWs who have been tested as coronavirus-free,” Recto said.
He said OFWs should be seen as “remitters of money and not as bearers of a disease.” “They deserve a red carpet welcome. Those who have brought progress to this country should not be shunned as carriers of a disease. To view them as such is fake news most foul.”
Citing government figures, Recto noted OFW remittances in 2019 totaled to P1.7 trillion.
“That’s P193 million every hour, P4.6 billion per day. That should be seen as the repatriation insurance they’ve been paying,” Recto said, stressing that the contribution of OFWs are much bigger than gross sales posted by Filipino conglomerates in a year.
Twenty-five percent of these remittances, he said, came from seafarers.
A recent report by the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Senate reportedly stated that 33,516 Filipino crew of at least eight cruise lines are awaiting repatriation.
Including land-based workers, the government is bracing for the return of 300,000 Filipinos, Recto said.
President Duterte has given concerned government agencies one week to send home some 24,000 OFWs stuck in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila, state-owned PTV-4 reported on Monday.