Catanduanes’ stranded Overseas Filipinos

by Fernan A. Gianan

This issue was among those discussed during the meeting last Monday (May 11, 2020) of the reorganized Emerging, Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases Provincial Task Force (EREID-PTF).

It may be recalled that recently, Abelardo Brizo, who arrived last March 26 from Japan where he worked as a welder, contacted the Tribune to air his lament on being stuck for weeks at a Pasay hotel paid for by the government.

He said that among the OFWs from Bicol who were stranded by the COVID-19 lockdown in Metro Manila, only those from Catanduanes remained due to the inability of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to contact their respective local government units.

In fairness to then Acting Governor Shirley Abundo, she disclosed that OWWA actually contacted her group and asked for the capitol’s email address. Apparently, however, no effort was made to follow up with the OWWA.

Last May 8, 2020, in an advisor to all OFWs confined in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila, the OWWA sought the understanding from those who have yet to rejoin their families in the provinces.

It said the agency desires to have them reunited with their loved ones as soon as possible but certain protocols have to be followed so that the COVID-19 virus would not reach their homers.

There are about 9,000 OFWs staying in temporary residence in hotels and other establishments, it said.

Citing IATF Resolution Nos. 26 and 29 and Department of Health (DOH) Memorandum Order No. 0200-2020, an OFW has to test negative under Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) COVID-19 swab test before he will be allowed to return to his family.

The OWWA said the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) have started mass testing of the OFWs, most of whom have stayed for more than 14 days in the quarantine facilities. A number of them have been bused to swabbing centers, with the results of the tests available within three to four days.

Once the test results turn out negative, the OFW will be issued a certificate of negative RT-PCR test results.

As of Monday, according to the OWWA representative in the province, the agency has yet to submit the list of the names of the Overseas Filipinos, including seafarers, bound for the island.

The information is supposed to be submitted to the respective local health officers of municipalities for risk assessment and subsequent recommendation for the local chief executive for approval.

There was some debate in the EREID-PTF meeting on whether the arriving stranded OFWs need to undergo another 14-day quarantine at a government facility despite testing negative of the virus. At least three officials, including Gov. Joseph Cua, preferred that they undergo home quarantine with another test upon completion just to make sure.

There was even a suggestion that the returnees pay for their own food and accommodation in an LGU-approved hotel of their choice where they could be monitored but the task force eventually agreed with DILG provincial director Uldarico Razal Jr. that current IATF guidelines provide that the stranded OFWs should be brought home, with their health situation to be placed under observation by the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs).

In his message to the Tribune last Monday night, Brizo had this to say: “Mabagal kasi ang process ng owwa dito kasi sa dami po namin.hirap nga sa kanila makipag usap eh.yung iba ko nga kasamahan dito lagpas na 2 months yung dala nila pera paubos na rin kasi hindi naman  maiwasan mapabili ng personal hygiene kaya sana matulungan naman kami makauwi na samin mga pamilya kaysa po dito hindi man lang makapagtrabaho buti pa dyan makapagtrabaho sa bundok.sana po agaran aksyon naman sobra2 na kami dito sa quarantine…”


IRREGULAR SOLDIER. An  irregular church goer is leaving church one day when the priest grabs his arm and pulls him aside.

The priest said to him, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!”

“I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Father,” the man says.

“Then how come I don’t see you at church except at Christmas and Easter?”

He whispers back, “I’m in the Secret Service.”

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