Responsive Ad Slot




Buhay Pinay



Philippine News

Join us at Facebook!

Labor Sec calls for shorter quarantine for returning overseas Filipinos

26 June 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Cacdac explaining OWWA's effort to bring home returning OFWs

Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has called on officials implementing the country’s anti-coronavirus protocols to shorten the quarantine period for returning overseas Filipinos from the current 10 days to as short as 3 days.

Bello made the call in remarks during a town hall meeting on quarantine protocols for returning OFs and inbound travelers held on Friday, Jun 25, co-organized by the Department of Health and the Department of Labor and Employment.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid control is currently implementing a 10-day quarantine for all inbound travelers. All new arrivals are taken directly to the quarantine facility, then tested for Covid-19 on the 7th day. If they test negative they are allowed to leave on the 10th day and continue the remaining four days of quarantine at home.


The new rules shortened the hotel quarantine to just seven days for vaccinated arrivals, but only if they got their jabs in the Philippines. According to health officials, this is because it is difficult to ascertain the genuineness of vaccination records issued abroad.

This requirement was widely opposed by OFs who took part in the meeting, saying there should be an easy way for Philippine officials to check the authenticity of the vaccination certificates.

One of the suggestions was to get Philippine Overseas Labor Offices abroad to authenticate the documents. Another participant who is Hong Kong-based said certificates issued here are difficult to fake and could even be stored electronically.

Call now!

Bello said the immediate concern was to help get OFWs back with their families, especially if they have been vaccinated.

“We must always bear in the mind the situation of our OFWs,” the labor secretary said, citing the mental stress on those who just want to be with their families as soon as they arrive in the Philippines.

Bello tells town hall participants the facility-based quarantine period should be shortened

Others are given only a limited time for their vacation, or fly home on emergencies, such as a death in the family. He cited a case where an OFW who had gone home to see a family member for the last time missed the funeral because of quarantine restrictions.

Bello said he gets as many as 500 to 700 “messages of desperation” on his phone, even in the wee hours, from quarantined OFWs asking to be let out earlier.

Pindutin para sa detalye

“The burden of the long quarantine period is there,” said Bello, who is himself a member of the IATF, which sets down pandemic protocols. It is headed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and chaired by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration supported the call, citing figures showing the low infection rate among returning OFWs. He said that the rate has gone down from 2% to just 1.3% lately, with the quarantine period being adjusted from 1 to 3 days, then 5 to 7, before 10 days.

But the health experts who spoke at the meeting, Drs  Alithea de Guzman, Eva Maria C. Cutiongco-de la Paz and Ma Teresita Cucueco, who is also assistant secretary of labor, took turns explaining the decision to extend the quarantine period amid the rise in the number of mutant virus being found in the country, mainly from returning residents.

De Guzman pointed out the need to come up with a united national response to the pandemic by understanding the health problem and supporting the government’s strategy to keep the infection under control.

De la Paz, executive director of the UP National Institutes of Health and program director for Health at UP Philippine Genome Center, traced her agency’s work in tracking down the five variants of concern that have been found in the country.


She said of the current five variants under study, the Delta, which was first detected in India, is causing the most concern among health officials worldwide due to its rapid infection rate. There are now 17 cases in the Philippines but no local case.

De la Paz showing how Delta has become the world's most dominant coronavirus variant 

De la Paz said the Delta variant has now spread to 85 countries after being brought in by international travelers. It has had three mutations, the L452R (the most prevalent) P681R, and T478K.

It is described by the World Health Organization as the fastest and fittest strain and easily spreads among those who haven’t taken the coronavirus vaccine.

Cucueco, on the other hand, explained relevant IATF resolutions on boarding and quarantine restrictions on inbound travelers, including Resolution 120, which shortened hotel quarantine for all vaccinated new arrivals to seven days.

But she admitted vaccination certificates issued abroad are still not being honored in the Philippines for the purpose of cutting short the facility-based quarantine.

Taking this as a cue, Bello said shorter quarantine could be used as an incentive for OFs to get vaccinated before flying home.

 “With due apologies, our recommendation is to reduce the quarantine period for those who have been vaccinated, especially for those who come home only for a few days of vacation, and for those who come home for medical and family emergencies,” Bello said.

He said it was unfair to compel all returning Filipinos to spend the same length of time in quarantine, even those who have already been vaccinated.

“How can you get our people to get vaccinated kung wala namang advantage ang vaccinated? So, iyan ang magandang pag-aralan natin,” Bello said.

He said that in the next IATF meeting, some new measures favoring OFWs should be taken up, including how to authenticate vaccination certificates obtained abroad.

OWWA's figures showing how many OFWs have been helped resettle back in the country

Cacdac used the chance to explain the services that OWWA provides returning OFWs, starting from their arrival at the airport, their quarantine and their eventual delivery to the bus terminals and airports.  He said the funds used for this comes from the national government and not the OWWA Trust Fund.

He showed data showing that around 600,000 returning OFWs have been helped by OWWA in resettling back in the Philippines since the pandemic began two years ago.

He also explained the different financial assistance extended by OWWA to distressed OFWs, including Akap, for those displaced by Covid; Tabang, which helps college-level kids of OFWs finish their schooling; and Tulong Puso, which gives cash grants to groups that come up with a viable business project.


Don't Miss