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Up to 18,000 OFWs stranded in Metro Manila —coast guard

The Philippine Coast Guard on Thursday said  up to 18,000 OFWs are stranded in Metro Manila as local government units of their origin refused to accept them amid the COVID-19 threat.

An official said the PCG volunteered to augment Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) personnel managing the quarantine operations of the agency for returning and repatriated migrant workers.

“Meron tayong na stranded na OFWs na 16,000 to 18,000 sa Kamaynilaan. Hindi po sila tinatanggap ng local government units,” PCG commandant Admiral Joel Garcia said in a Dobol B sa News TV interview.

Some of the stranded OFWs are complaining about  their continued stay at quarantine facilities, exceeding the recommended 14-day quarantine.

Under the health protocols, returning OFWs have to undergo 14-day quarantine in designated facilities like hotels before allowing them to go home to their provinces.

However, Garcia said some local government units refused to welcome the OFWs due to the virus threat.

To help OWWA and the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), Garcia said PCG volunteered to administer the testing of 18,000 OFWs. PCG established 30 teams consisting of 15 personnel including medical technologists and nurses.

“Pinupuntahan po nation ‘yung 177 hotels (kung saan naka-quarantine ang OFWs),” Garcia said while also admitting that testing the up to 18,000 OFWs was a challenge.

The swab samples are being processed by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) using a PCR-based test, Garcia said, adding that the PRC is also conducting tests for local government units, which caused some delays.

So far, BOQ has released 6,000 certificates of COVID-19 results of some OFWs, according to Garcia.

After receiving complaints from OFWs about the management in quarantine facilities, Garcia noted that PCG only volunteered to help, pointing out that the OWWA and the BOQ are supposed to take care of the matter.

Responding to questions on issues raised by OFWS stuck in Matabungkay in Lian, Batangas, Garcia said OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac told him that they are already arranging the transportation for the OFWs to Manila. —Joviland Rita/LBG, GMA News