By Leslie Ann Aquino
Only about 5,000 of the 24,000 overseas Filipino workers have yet to be transported to their home provinces.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said as of Thursday, May 28, they were able to send home more than 19,000 OFWs.
“We are just short by about 5,000 still waiting to be transported for their homecoming to accomplish what we were tasked to do. As of last night, we were able to facilitate sending home 19,010 OFWs,” he said in a virtual press briefing. Bello said they are targeting to bring home the remaining 5,000 OFWs before Sunday.
On Monday, President Duterte ordered the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and OWWA to send home to their families the estimated 24,000 repatriated OFWs staying in quarantine facilities in one week.
All returning OFWs are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a government-designated facility, and get tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to return home.
Some OFWs, however, complained of the slow release of their results and clearances after weeks and months in quarantine.
Bello again apologized to OFWs saying the government did not intend to inconvenience them with their prolonged quarantine and delayed test results.
“We apologize for the anxiety and discomfort that the unwarranted suffering may have caused our dear OFWs, all 24,000 or so of them,” he said.
“Our office simply has no control over the testing and issuance of clearances to them. But then again this is not an excuse for us not to do better,” added Bello.
To prevent a repeat of what he described as a seemingly “disorderly process” of sending home OFWs, the labor chief said they organized a command center which will serve as a repository of data and information on the volumes of OFWs being repatriated to the country.
“This center will guide us in the formulation of proactive measures and crafting of policies in dealing with repatriation, reintegration, and assistance to OFWs who have been profiled even prior to their return to the Philippines,” Bello said.
The center, he said, will also be of great help in the global mapping of inbound OFWs, and even outbound workers who will be deployed to host countries already opened to foreign nationals.
Bello said those who wish to get in touch with the center may email [email protected] “We will be operational on a 24/7 basis,” he said.
“With this center, we will avoid a repeat of what happened to our OFWs,” added Bello.
The labor chief also signed an administrative order creating the Crisis Management Committee which will be headed by former DOLE secretary Marianito Roque and assisted by three Labor undersecretaries.