De Lima seeks probe into prolonged quarantine of repatriated OFWs


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called upon the Senate to investigate the reported delays in the release of repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from their designated isolation and quarantine facilities which aggravated their anxieties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 426 seeking to identify the lapses in the OFW repatriation program and help determine any accountability for the suffering of the OFW repatriates.

“There is a complete and utter failure in the handling of the return of the repatriated OFWs. There were no plans to test them prior to this month. Many of them had to endure sub-optimal living conditions. And, most importantly, they are woefully uninformed of any plans to reunite them with their families,” she said.

“The lack of any semblance of protocol for the return of repatriated OFWs to their hometown led to them having to spend extended period in quarantine (and) spend their hard-earned savings just to survive and without any idea on when and how they will be able to be reunited with their families,” she added.

Last April 20, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) issued Resolution No. 26 which determined that “all arriving OFWs, whether land-based or sea-based, shall be required to undergo a mandatory fourteen-day facility-based quarantine, and shall be subject to rapid antibody testing for COVID-19.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs had reportedly managed to repatriate 24,422 OFWs – 16,936 of whom were sea-based and 7,486 were land-based OFWs, as of May 2.

However, thousands of OFWs awaiting the delayed release of their COVID-19 test results and certification were left stranded in the quarantine facilities without specific information on when they will be able to return to their homes.

Mr Duterte later confirmed that some Local Government Units (LGUs) are refusing to accept the returning OFWs over concerns of them spreading COVID-19 in their areas.

“Due to the failure to test the quarantined OFWs [on time], the national government failed to provide the proper assurance to the LGUs that the OFWs are safe to return to their hometowns. It was only after over one month in quarantine that the national government initiated the mass testing programs for the OFWs,” she recalled.

In filing SR No. 426, De Lima said such investigation is important because OFWs are modern-day heroes who deserve the best possible treatment that the country can  offer.  

“They should be able to enjoy their right to spend the remainder of their stay here in the Philippines with their loved ones during these uncertain times beneath the specter of this global pandemic,” she said. (30)

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