Duterte gives ultimatum to gov’t agencies to send home 24,000 OFWs stranded in quarantine facilities

Marje Pelayo   •   May 25, 2020   •   344

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has given concerned government agencies a week to send home all 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who remain stranded in quarantine facilities. 

Specifically, the President addressed the matter to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Health (DOH). 

The President’s ultimatum stemmed from complaints coming from OFWs in government quarantine facilities due to the slow-paced processing of their swab test results for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is mandatory for arriving OFWs.

“Sang-ayon po sa Presidente, binibigyan niyang otoridad ang lahat ng mga opisyales ng mga departamentong ito na gamitin po ang lahat ng resources ng ating gobyerno para masiguradong makauwi ngayong linggo ang ating mga kababayan,” Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque announced.

OWWA earlier explained that the results of swab tests have been delayed because of the number of arriving OFWs.

Malacañang added that the President wants to strengthen the country’s capacity in reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) testing in the provinces so that returning OFWs can go straight to their localities and be tested there.

“Sabi rin po ng ating presidente, kinakailangang palawakin ang kakayahan ng ating mga probinsya na magkaroon ng RT-PCR test para sa ganun po ang mga susunod na darating na OFWs ay doon na po sa kanilang mga probinsya mag-quarantine at doon na po sila magpapa-pcr test,” Roque said. 

DOLE, meanwhile, promised to send home OFWs who have been cleared of COVID-19 in three days with the help of the OWWA and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). 

“The composite team of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will arrange in the next three days for daily trips for 8,000 OFWs via the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) and the NAIA Terminal,” DOLE’s statement read. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PRC’s decision to stop swab testing affects returning OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III admits that the decision of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to stop conducting swab tests due to PhilHealth’s unsettled bills with them have greatly affected the returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

PhilHealth’s outstanding bill with PRC has already amounted to more than P930-million.

Bello said around 4,000 overseas Filipino workers have been stranded in the quarantine hotels they are currently billeted. And the longer they stay in these hotels, the greater the burden on the government that is shouldering the expenses in these hotels.

In the past, the DOLE had been able to send home up to 3,000 OFWs daily after undergoing swab tests and quarantine. To date, it can only send home around 300 OFWs every day.

“They are staying longer. While before they can stay for 3 to four days, now they already stay beyond one week and that’s our problem. There are expenses in taking care of our OFWs. So the sooner the issue of payment is resolved, the better for the OFWs and the better for the finances of our government,” Bello said.

The DOLE chief is hoping that the PhilHealth-PRC issue will be resolved as around 100,000 more OFWs are due to be repatriated before the year ends.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is asking the returning OFWs for their cooperation and patience for the delay of the issuance of result of their swab tests.

PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said they have returned to manually encoding the information of these returning OFWs.

“So pagdating po sa airport, katulad ng dati, imbis na CIF po na pinifill-upan bago po dumating dito na sa website ng red cross, e ngayon po iniinterview namin isa-isa yung mga OFW at kinukunan ng background. At pagkatapos po nun, kinukunan ng swab test, maging yun pong dati na mga specimen po ay nilalagyan na rin ng manual na pangalan at kung kelan na swab di katulad ng dati na bar code,” said Balilo.

This, Balilo said, is why it is taking the process up to four to five days rather than finishing it in just one day following PRC’s decision.

Despite this, Balilo said there are now 12 hospitals that will accept and process the RT-PCR tests of OFWs.

“Magiging capacity po sa isang araw po kaya po ng mga 4,000 hanggang 4,500 po na iti-test,” he said.

Balilo added that the PCG will augment its personnel to lessen the delay due to the manual encoding.

The official also said they are finding ways to return to automation or electronic process encoding of individual information.

“On our part, nagpadala na po kami ng mga tauhan ng mga IT personnel para po magaya natin kung ano man ang sistema na pina-iiral ng Red Cross at sa loob po ng lalong madaling panahon ay maresolba natin itong delay,” Balilo said.

280,000 OFWs received cash aid from government—DOLE

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 5, 2020

Almost 280,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have received cash aid, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP), DOLE has disbursed P2.853 billion in AKAP funds to both on-site and repatriated OFW beneficiaries as of October 2.

“The one-time financial grant to eligible OFWs whose employment was negatively impacted by COVID-19 was also ongoing in Israel where it has released its third tranche of DOLE-AKAP beneficiaries,” the Labor Department said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the government continues to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases among OFWs across the globe. AAC

30,000 OFW children in college to benefit from P1-B education subsidy

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 28, 2020

More than 30,000 college students who are dependents of repatriated, displaced, and deceased overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will benefit from the government’s P1 billion education subsidy, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III signed a memorandum of agreement to launch “Tabang OFW”. The program aims to provide a one-time financial assistance of P30,000 to one college-level dependent of a repatriated, displaced, or deceased OFW.

Bello said the program is just one of the government’s ways of reciprocating the sacrifices of overseas Filipinos.

“We hope this will go a long way in helping our OFWs and their children in these most challenging times. By doing this, we also hope we can partly repay our modern-day heroes,” he said.

Under the agreement the Labor Department shall issue orders, circulars or guidelines that will spell out the effective and efficient implementation of the program while the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will release the funds amounting to P1 billion to DOLE for its implementation.

The Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) will assist DOLE on the promotion and other information dissemination activities of the program. AAC

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