W. Visayas can expect surge in returning OFWs

A simulation exercise was done at the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Fort San Pedro, Iloilo City on Monday afternoon by concerned regional agencies and other stakeholders to ensure the smooth arrival of the OFWs today, April 28, 2020.(OCD-6 photo)

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

Western Visayas can expect a surge in returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who were mostly stranded in Manila due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Around 234 OFWs repatriated from Metro Manila are expected to arrive in Iloilo City and Bacolod City on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Regional Interagency Task Force in Western Visayas (RIATF) confirmed that 234 OFWs boarded a ship and departed Manila Monday night.

The returning OFWs include 178 residents of Iloilo City and Iloilo province and 52 residents of Bacolod City.

According to Jose Roberto Nuñez chairman of the RIATF 6 and regional director of the Office of the Civil Defense 6, the OFWs were negative for COVID-19 after undergoing tests.

“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 statement.

Nuñez added that the OFWs have already agreed to subject themselves to 14-day quarantine despite already completing the health protocol.

He said that the 234 OFWs are just the first wave of the many OFWS who will arrive in the region.

“This is just the first batch of OFWs that will be arriving in our region and more are coming. Rest assured that the task force will relentlessly work hand in hand to ensure the success of the repatriation of OFWs,” he said.

Based on Resolution No. 13 of RIATF issued on April 24, returning land-based and sea-based OFWs who remain stranded in Metro Manila will be subjected to health protocols, particularly RT-PCR and rapid antibody-based tests prior to departure from Metro Manila or any point of exit.

Only OFWs with negative results will be allowed to depart and will be accepted in the region.

Moreover, only results from Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-certified testing kits and Department of Health (DOH)-approved tests shall be accepted.

Under the resolution, only OFWs who are asymptomatic shall be allowed to board the plane or vessel.

Meanwhile, the Regional Task Force through the help of Department of Tourism (DOT) have identified hotels with enough rooms to temporarily accommodate the repatriated OFWs for their 14-day quarantine period upon their arrival.

“While we understand that our LGUs need ample time to prepare their quarantine facilities for the OFWs, through the help of DOT-6, we have secured the availability of enough rooms from various hotels within the city. We would like to assure that our partner hotels were properly briefed on how to handle the OFWs,” Nuñez he said.

A simulation exercise was also done at the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Fort San Pedro, Iloilo City on Monday afternoon by concerned regional agencies and other stakeholders to ensure the smooth arrival of the OFWs.

In Iloilo City, the city government is also preparing for the surge of returning OFWs in the metro.

According to Mayor Jerry Treñas, the city is ready to accept the repatriated OFWs and house them in the isolation centers prepared by the city.

Kon ano ang decision sang RIATF ready magbaton ang city sa ila. Gusto ko man makapauli na sila kay mabudlay na ila sitwasyon didto sa Manila,” he said in a press conference on Monday.

The mayor said the returning OFWs should be subjected to rapid test in Manila and undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test once they arrive in Iloilo City.

Ang amon tani ni Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. nga ma-undergo na sila PCR testing sa Manila pero mabudlay man didto kay layo sila so diri na lang sila maundergo sang PCR test. We need to be prepared for the repatriation of our OFWs. After the first wave of arrivals, we will be expecting more, that is why we must be prepared,” Treñas said.

The city government has already prepared the St. Therese MTC Hospital to serve as an isolation facility for returning OFWs.

DOT has also identified hotels in Iloilo City that will accommodate the repatriated OFWs – Goldberry Hotel, GT Hotel De Leon, GT Hotel Jaro, Injap Tower Hotel, and Urban Inn.