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HK-based OFW sisters fail to see dying mother after getting stuck in quarantine

28 May 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The first batch of the 24,000 OFWS stuck in quarantine despite testing negative were sent home by bus

Two sisters, both domestic helpers in Hong Kong, are still stuck in quarantine in a Metro Manila hotel nearly a month since they flew home on May 1, intending to rush to the bedside of their dying mother.

Their mother eventually died on May 12 but the sisters not only missed her funeral, but have remained locked down in the quarantine facility because the result of their Covid-19 tests have yet to be released.

A friend of theirs, also a domestic worker in Hong Kong, revealed their plight in a post on the Facebook page of the Philippine Coast Guard, which has since been removed.
The informant claimed the sisters had paid Php9,000 to some unnamed personnel of the Philippine National Red Cross hoping to expedite the release of their test results, all for naught.

Her comment was in response to a Coast Guard post showing photos of quarantined OFWs who were being transported to their home provinces by government-owned or chartered vehicles.

According to her post, one of the sisters was booked by her employer for a flight back to Hong Kong today, May 28, but was unable to leave as she remains under quarantine while waiting to be cleared of the coronavirus disease.

The friend said the sisters are from Cagayan province. They arrived together in Manila from Hong Kong on May 1, hoping to see their mother after their 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Now they are in despair as not only did they fail to say a final goodbye to their mother, they also run the risk of losing their jobs because of their prolonged confinement in the quarantine facility.

OWWA staff visit  overstaying OFWs in a quarantine facility
The two sisters’ plight was among the dozens of stories shared by angry OFWs stranded in several quarantine facilities across Metro Manila while they wait for the result of their swab test results.

Many of them disclosed that they were not tested until after they finished the required 14-day quarantine.

But even after testing negative for the disease, they remained in isolation because officials in their hometowns would not allow them in unless they could show a certificate showing they are Covid-free.

They were also forced to stay put because they had no access to transportation, as Metro Manila and the whole of Luzon remained under lockdown.

It was only after their complaints were aired by media outlets in the Philippines that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered on May 25 that all 24,000 OFWs who had tested negative for the disease should be sent home within a week.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III responded with an assurance that the order would be complied with in just three days.

By this morning, however, official figures showed only 7,500  had managed to reach home, and were all made to undergo another 14 days of quarantine by their local officials.

Thousands were left stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where they were brought from their quarantine centers yesterday. The mainly Davao-bound OFWs said they were not given food or water overnight, and were left in one corner of the airport "like garbage."

Thousands were forced to spend overnight at the airport while waiting for their long-awaited trip to home.
One of those forced to undergo the second quarantine in her home province blasted the local government units’ stance in a Facebook page called the OFWs Community Quarantine Group.

Eleanor Acuin said, “This is a big mistake. Di ako maka-move on sa pahirap sa amin sa paghahanap ng result ng swab test at certificate mo para sa clearance. Tapos babaliwalain ng sarili mong bayan. What a shame. Huwag ubusin at sayangin pera ng ating bansa.”

The group’s administrator, Catalina Magno, said she created the page to give voice to her fellow OFWs who are suffering in silence in quarantine centers across the country as they wait for the time they can return to their families.

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