By Alex P. Vidal
“Welcome those big, sticky, complicated problems. In them are your most powerful opportunities.” —Ralph Marston
TO wiggle out from the mess created by the recent controversial arrival of the seafarers from Manila, Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas should have “TikToked” Guimbal Mayor Oscar “Oca” Garin’s brilliant move in welcoming the arriving OFWs in their municipality.
Before everything else turns topsy turvy, Garin informed Iloilo Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. in a letter dated May 2, 2020 they have identified the Guimbal National High School as their Community Quarantine Area for the returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“The LGU has also established our Community Quarantine Committee to oversee and monitor the area and the status of the OFWs,” Garin wrote Defensor.
“Furthermore, LGU Guimbal will strictly adhere to the protocols relative to the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine for stronger protection against COVID-19.”
One thing can be sure now: when the OFWs arrive in Guimbal, they will be treated like returning sports heroes with amenities in their temporary shelter fit for vacationers.
Despite their notoriety in other areas of politics, the Garins have been known for their dyed-in-the-wool generosity and genuine “malasakit” (deep concern) for their own people.
It’s not the OFWs’ fault, wherever they came from prior to the #COVID-19 pandemic, if their leaders have soft hearts for the OFWs and the working class in general.
If Treñas didn’t like Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda “intervention” in the job of the regional task force in the transfer of the 175 (35 were from Iloilo City) stranded seafarers from Manila to Iloilo, he could have tapped the Iloilo City National High School or the Iloilo City La Paz High School, two of the biggest temporary shelters for any batch of returning OFWs for the temporary quarantine area and, thus, avoid lashing out at his
Like what Garin did in Guimbal.
The repatriated seafarers are now staying in a hotel in Iloilo City and Treñas has admitted the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA), which helped facilitate the OFWs’ transfer from Manila to Iloilo on April 29, weren’t sure which agency will pay for the hotel.
The hotel bills would have been waved if they were brought directly to any of the aforementioned national high schools.
But in spite of his efforts to attend to the needs of at least 100 quarantined seafarers, Treñas still recently got an earful from President Rodrigo R. Duterte who probably was fed with wrong information that the city mayor had refused to welcome the returning OFWs amid the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
“I heard the news na sa city of Iloilo, hindi ninyo tinanggap ang mga OFW. Mayor, nakikiusap ako sa inyo na sundin lang ninyo ‘yung guidelines. Sumunod kayo sa magandang paraan or pipilitin ko na sumunod kayo,” the President reportedly bewailed.
It turned out Treñas ordered the sending of food packs and hygiene kits to the seafarers May 1 after the OFWs had complained they didn’t have enough water and food supplies in the hotel where they were brought upon arrival for quarantine.
“Together with the city government, we will take care of their meals. Our Uswag Kitchen Patrol headed by my wife (Rosalie) will be making their meals daily. Since they don’t have toiletries and groceries, we are providing them as well,” Treñas vowed earlier.
In fairness, Treñas didn’t deserve the presidential admonition.
It’s not in the nature of his character to reject, much less abandon the Ilonggo OFWs whose only “fault” was to come home in the time of coronavirus.
Those who whispered wrong information to Duterte owe Treñas an explanation and apology.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)