By Emme Rose Santiagudo
The Regional Interagency Task Force (RIATF) on COVID-19 in Western Visayas is still tracing other Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who were stranded in Metro Manila, Cebu, and other areas for almost a month due to the lockdown imposed by the national and local governments.
Jose Roberto Nuñez, chairman of the RIATF 6 and regional director of the Office of the Civil Defense, said the 200 OFWs who arrived Wednesday are just the first batch of the repatriates.
Nuñez said that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)-6 headed by officer-in-charge Lea Aguirre is doing their best to hasten the repatriation of OFWs.
“Gamay na lang nga hulat. Gaumpisa na kita subong.Ginapangabay lang, gamay na lang nga pasensya and hulat sa iban na OFW. Kami nga task force, ginaistoryahan man namon kon pano padasigon ang pagbalik sa OFWs,” he said.
The task force appealed for patience and understanding from other stranded OFWs who wish to return to Western Visayas.
The 227 OFWs were ferried by a 2GO vessel from Manila to the ports of Bacolod City and Iloilo City.
The first batch of OFWs composed of 24 residents of Bacolod City and 27 residents of Negros Occidental arrived in Bacolod on Tuesday night.
The 175 OFWs from Panay island and Guimaras arrived in Iloilo City Wednesday morning.
Out of the 175 OFWs, 68 are from Iloilo province, 37 are from Aklan, 18 are from Antique, 12 are from Capiz, and five are from Guimaras.
OFWs from Guimaras, Iloilo City, and Iloilo province were transported to a hotel that serves as their quarantine facilities.
Nuñez said the repatriated OFWs tested negative for COVID-19 after undergoing rapid testing.
“We would like to reiterate that only OFWs who were tested negative during the rapid testing, those who showed no symptoms of Covid-19, and those with complete documents were allowed to board the vessel pursuant to RIATF Resolution No. 12 and 13,” he said.
In a memorandum issued on April 27, the RIATF advised all local government units (LGUs) in the region to prepare quarantine facilities for the OFWs.
The quarantine facilities should observe proper social distancing with the supervision of health officers. Visitors are highly discouraged while the OFWs are under quarantine.
Upon arrival, LGUs should ensure that OFWs shall undergo a 14-day quarantine and mandatory facility-based quarantine.
After the completion of the mandatory facility-based quarantine, the OFWs shall undergo another COVID-19 testing.
OWWA shouldered the hotel accommodation of the first batch of the OFWs while the local government units (LGUs) will pay for their Covid-19 tests.