About 4,000 OFWs stranded in Metro Manila COVID-19 testing delayed due to PhilHealth-Red Cross impasse

At least 4,000 overseas Filipino workers are currently stranded in Metro Manila, the Department of Labor and Employment said Tuesday.


Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III cited the issue involving the Philippine Red Cross and Philhealth as reason for this.

The Philippine Red Cross on October 14 announced that it was discontinuing its participation in the testing of specific sectors, whose COVID-19 tests are shouldered by PhilHealth, including arriving OFWs, as the overdue balance of PhilHealth to PRC had already reached nearly P1 billion.

"We are now faced with another stranding of our OFWs. Before we succeeded in bringing home or repatriating our OFWs (to their home provinces) at the rate of 1,000 to 3,000 a day. Now, we are talking only about a maximum of 300 a day," he said during a Malacañang press briefing.

"You can just imagine how many OFWs are now stranded in all the hotels in Metro Manila," added Bello.

"That is now a problem. They are staying longer.  Before they stayed only (for) as long 3 to 4 days now they are staying beyond one week. That's our problem in terms of expenses and in terms of taking care of our OFWs," he said.

Bello said the faster the issue is resolved the better for OFWs and the finances of the government.

According to the labor chief, more than 100,000 OFWs are still expected to arrive in the country before the year ends.

"We are expectng another 100,000 or more because everyday the number is growing," said Bello.

On October 11, the DoLE said 248,469 OFWs who have returned to the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic had been transported back to their respective provinces.

The government started transporting OFWs en masse in May after Covid tests and quarantine.