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Pinoy Abroad

24,000 stranded OFWs back to home provinces in 3 days –Bello

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday vowed to send to their home provinces the 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stuck in quarantine facilities for COVID-19 in three days' time.

Bello said this amid President Rodrigo Duterte's one-week ultimatum for the Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Department of Health to send the OFWs back to their home provinces.

“Hindi na namin paaabutin ng isang linggo. Sa loob ng tatlong araw, pipilitin namin na mapauwi ang ating mga kabababayan na nahihirapan na sa quarantine facilities,” Bello said in an interview over Dobol B sa News TV.

He was referring to the OFWs who were tested negative for COVID-19 and are finished with the 14-day quarantine but remain stranded in NCR since their certificate allowing them to go home is yet to be issued to them by the Bureau of Quarantine.

“Tatapusin namin sa loob ng tatlong araw at the rate of 8,000 OFWs per day. By air, by land, by sea… lahat ng facilities, we will make available for them para makauwi na sila,” Bello said.

Bello said that the timeline will start Monday, and that the OFWs’ transit to their homes will be unhampered since they have coordinated their efforts with the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Since March 15, returning OFWs were required to undergo a 14-day home quarantine as a measure against COVID-19. OFWs who reside in the Visayas and Mindanao, however, were stuck in Metro Manila since Luzon has been placed under enhanced community quarantine, which banned mass transport, including commercial flights, from March 16 to May 15.

But starting April 13, returning OFWs are now required to undergo mandatory quarantine inside government facilities, meaning hotels and other accommodations accredited by the Department of Tourism.

Since April 27, returning OFWs were required to undergo RT-PCR tests.

At least 600 returning OFWs have been tested positive for COVID-19 so far, and the government fears that the possible second wave of COVID-19 infections may come from the 42,000 OFWs set to be repatriated in the coming days.

Interviewed on Unang Balita  on Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte finds it "unacceptable" that OFWs will experience difficulty after arriving in the Philippines after toiling abroad for years.

"Hindi katanggap-tangap sa Pangulo ang matagal na proseso na naka-quarantine na OFW," he said.

Roque also said Duterte has ordered intensifying the capacity of provinces in conducting PCR-based testing so repatriated OFWs can undergo quarantine in their respective areas of residence.

“Pinag-utos din ng Presidente na palakasin ang PCR testing sa iba't-ibang probinsiya para sa darating na mga araw [ay] pauuwiin na ang mga OFWs doon na sila magka-quarantine sa kanilang probinsiya," he said. KBK, GMA News