OFW groups urge gov't to ease stringent anti-COVID 19 rules for returning workers

Published June 17, 2021, 8:36 PM

by Ben Rosario

Groups representing overseas Filipino workers on Thursday, June 17 are united in asking government to lift stringent rules for arriving OFWs in the country even as they batted for the application of the Cebu airport public health and safety protocol for balikbayans and OFWs arrivals.

This developed as TUCP partylist Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza welcomed the decision of Health Secretary Francisco Duque to visit Cebu next week to personally make an assessment of how it conducts anti-COVID -19 for r4turning overseas Filipinos (ROF).

However, Mendoza chided Duque for skipping the hearing and face OFW leaders.

In full attendance at Thursday’s congressional hearing conducted by the Lower House Committee on OFW Affairs, leaders of various OFW groups and non-government organizations chided the Department of Health (DOH) for failing to heed their appeal to spare fully vaccinated returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) strict anti-COVID 19 protocols that require ten to 14 days quarantine.

Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center assailed the unfairness of the reported decision of the DOH and the Inter-agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease to shorten quarantine application for professionals returning to the country.

“Why can’t they apply that also to ordinary OFWs when we are referring to the same science?” asked Ople during the committee hearing presided over by TUCP Partylist Rep. Raymond Mendoza, panel chairman.

Cebu’s arrival protocol has been supported by OFW representatives as the best model in the treatment of ROFs, most of whom are forced to spend their short vacation in the Philippines in quarantine facilities.

However, DOH and IATF have frowned upon the seeming laxity in the rules imposed by Cebu. Malacanang has ordered the diversion of Cebu flights to Manila to ensure that the COVID-19 rules DOH preferred to impose are followed.

The flight diversion has placed ROFs in a far worse situation, critics present during the hearing said.

“We actually allow them less than seven days quarantine,” revealed Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH chief pathologist in Region 7.

She said easing up quarantine requirement does reduce the effectivity of the bid to prevent the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease, pointing out that this is because “we already have community response put in place in the province.”

Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia lamented that government has been doing its utmost to stop the province from implementing its own rules for ROFs.

“But we are observing science-based and data verified protocols. We are in fact mindful of the safety and security of ROFs, but we apply the humane aspects based on the present IATF guidelines,” Garcia explained.

Representatives from the Center for Migrant Advocacy, Association of Licensed Manning Agencies and the PASEI appealed to government to consider implementing the Cebu program in dealing with ROF arrivals.