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Arriving OFWs in Phl to undergo rapid virus test, forced quarantine

23 April 2020

By The SUN

All OFWs arriving in Manila will now be tested for Covid-19 and put in quarantine facilities

The Philippine government is to start subjecting all arriving overseas Filipino workers to rapid testing for Covid-19, in addition to putting them in a mandatory quarantine facility for 14 days.

This was announced by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases yesterday, Apr 22.

IATF spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the regulations are part of Resolution 26 recently approved by the government’s anti-Covid 19 policymaking body.
He did not specify a date when the rapid testing will start, which means it would be put in place immediately.

Also as part of the resolution, sea-based OFWs will be required to present a certification of a clean bill of health from the Bureau of Quarantine. The certification should come from their point of origin, and issued immediately before their departure.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that effective Apr 16, all arriving OFWs, whether land-based or sea-based, would be moved to quarantine facilities for 14 days before they are allowed to make their way home.
The DFA said the move is in line with the IATF’s Resolutions No13 and 15, dated Apr 13 and 15, respectively.

Previously, arriving OFWs were picked up at the airport by shuttle buses provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and dropped off at designated stops near their homes.
The service stopped on Mar 30 as the enhanced community quarantine was implemented in more parts of the country, making travel through different localities more difficult.

Online chat rooms among OFWs reveal that police and security personnel have been segregating OFWs from other arriving passengers as soon as they arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, before they are herded to vehicles that take them to designated quarantine centers.

The QC hotel room is said to be cockroach-infested
The experiences shared by the returnees vary. A crew member of a cruise ship shared pictures of a filthy hotel room in Novaliches, Quezon City where he said he was taken for his forced quarantine in an interview with a TV news channel.

But online posts by other OFWs showed the opposite, with some showing neat single-occupancy  rooms in hotels, and others sharing pictures of a private resort in Tagaytay where they said they were billeted.
 
A HK OFW says she was assigned to this single-unit hotel room and given free food

Some said that their accommodation and food was free of charge, while others claimed they were charged Php180 each day. Others said they were not given any food at all.

Apart from hotels, two passenger ferries belonging to the 2GO company are being used as quarantine facilities for hundreds of OFWs, and are now berthed at Pier 15 in Manila.
The IATF also said it will also allow cruise ships carrying Filipino crew to dock in Manila ports so they can be used as quarantine facilities, subject to guidelines to be used by relevant government authorities.

But given that much of the country is now in lockdown, with the possibility of even tighter restrictions amid the continuing rise in Covid-19 cases, the main concern of the OFWs is how they will they be able to go home after they finish their quarantine.

On top of this, a majority of those under quarantine have just lost their jobs, and now face the bigger problem of finding a new source of livelihood so they can continue providing for their families.

To date, DFA records show that 16,682 OFWs have been repatriated after losing their jobs. Most, or 13,213 of them, are seafarers.

Independent studies show up to half a million OFWs are likely end up jobless, as the pandemic continues to devastate countries around the world.

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