By Martin Sadongdong
The government is looking for available locations in the provinces of Basilan or Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao where quarantine facilities will be built for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Sabah, Malaysia due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic but are set to be repatriated.
In a Laging Handa press briefing on June 1, Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said coordination has been made with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to facilitate the swift return of the stranded OFWs.
“Inaayos lang ng DFA kung ilan ang babalik at hinahanapan ng quarantine facilities either sa Tawi-Tawi or Basilan (The DFA is identifying how many are going home and where will they be brought, either in Tawi-Tawi or Basilan),” Lorenzana said.
The Defense Chief noted that he already instructed the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the Philipine Navy (PN) to prepare in case military assets are needed for the repatriation of the OFWs.
“Mayroon tayong programa dyan. Kung kailangan sunduin, may eroplano tayo na mga C-130 or barko ng Navy,” he said.
[Translation: We have a program for that. If they need to be fetched, we have C-130 planes, or ships from the Navy.]
According to the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19, a total of 5,184 overseas Filipinos have acquired the disease as of Sunday, 489 of whom are in Asia and the Pacific region.
A total of 31,528 overseas Filipinos have been repatriated since the pandemic began, the NTF COVID-19 added.
Last month, 183 Filipinos from Malaysia were fetched by the government, the DFA said in a statement.
Returning overseas Filipinos are required to undergo a COVID-19 test and 14-day quarantine period to ensure that they are free from the virus.