by Fernan A. Gianan
In the wake of the now controversial travel to Catanduanes of the San Miguel OFW who had tested positive for COVID-19 five days before he went home, the provincial government has undertaken several measures intended to further strengthen its containment strategy against the pandemic.
Aside from hiring four personnel to take charge of the screening of arriving travelers at Tabaco port to check their identities and travel documents, particularly health and quarantine certificates, the administration of Gov. Joseph Cua has asked the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for clarification regarding their boarding procedure in the repatriation of Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs).
Last week, it sent a letter to OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac seeking enlightenment on whether it allows OFWs to board without checking their health or quarantine certificates, following the June 6 travel of the San Miguel OFW who left the Makati City hotel where he had been quarantined and boarded a van bound for Tabaco using an allegedly fake or fraudulent Quarantine Certificate.
An OWWA regional official had reportedly told capitol personnel that the Bicol office itself is not being informed beforehand by the OWWA central office on the names and destinations of OFWs being repatriated to Bicol. Although the list sometimes comes through, it arrives too late to allow the receiving LGUs to be informed to they can inspect the OFWs’ homes for suitability or prepare the appropriate quarantine facility if needed.
On the other hand, no less than Catanduanes police provincial director Col. Paul Abay has reservations about the recent delegation of the power to approve the Travel Authority (TA) to chiefs of police.
Perhaps, he suggested, the power to approve the TA should still be lodged with the PD in coordination with the provincial government.
Still another point of contention among local chief executives is the removal of the previous requirement that the consent of destination LGUs be secured by the Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs) before their TA will be issued.
This has become hot issue among municipal mayors, including barangay captains.
In the case of the San Miguel OFW, Mayor Jun Camano only learned of the latter’s travel when he (the OFW) was already aboard the ferry.
Already, there are reports that some barangay officials as well as alarmed neighbors are refusing to allow arriving OFWs to stay at their own homes for the required 14-day quarantine.
Regarding the outbound travel of LSIs from Catanduanes to Metro Manila and elsewhere, DILG provincial director Jun Razal suggested during last week’s joint PPOC-PADAC meeting that, before issuing the TA, the police chief should determine if the LSI already has available transport, whether private car or passenger bus.
Gov. Cua recounted the case of several TA applicants who claimed that they had hired a van at Tabaco to take them to Manila but upon arriving at the Albay port, it turned out that there was no such van. As a result, the travelers were stranded in the city.
The chief executive said the buses chartered by the provincial government for the Balik Happy Island Program (BHIP) can accommodate these Manila-bound, car-less travelers as long as their trip is properly coordinated with the police, municipal governments, and the capitol.
Police chiefs could coordinate with the BHIP team to determine the schedule of the Manila-bound trips so that the LSIs would be assured of transportation.
But this would have to wait as the BHIP has been put on hold following the twin OFW positive results.
So far, none of the more than 300 LSIs send here under BHIP have turned up with the virus.
Hundreds more are waiting for the program to resume, including many workers who have lost their jobs in Metro Manila due to the pandemic.
THE LAWYERS. Two lawyers go into a café and order two drinks. Then they produce sandwiches from their briefcases and start to eat.
The waiter becomes quite concerned and marches over and tells them, “You can’t eat your own sandwiches in here.”
The lawyers look at each other, shrug their shoulders and exchange sandwiches.