Local execs prodded to allow entry to returning OFWs

A CONGRESSMAN from Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Thursday expressed disgust over reports of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are being denied accommodation and of local government units (LGUs) turning them away due to coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

TUCP party-list Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza said there is an apparent lack of rapid response protocols within the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and its attached agencies, and a massive failure of coordination with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Disease (IATF), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and LGUs for the repatriation, quarantine and post-quarantine and financial assistance for OFWs.

During its April 1 press conference, Mendoza said the Department of Health (DoH) reported the repatriation of 483 seafarers, nine of which are persons under investigations (PUIs).

About 6,378 seafarers are to be repatriated in the next two weeks, Mendoza lamented.

According to DoLE, he said at least 3,169 OFWs were affected worldwide, with about 1,560 OFWs displaced or forced to go on leave due to COVID-19. 

About 203 OFWs tested positive of COVID-19 while three have died, he said based on the data of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“We are alarmed that OFWs are wandering in a new diaspora because they either cannot be deployed or worse, they cannot come home to their respective LGUs because of a lack of coordination among concerned agencies and the LGUs,” Mendoza explained.

“It is appalling that OFWs sleep on the streets while government agencies are taking their sweet time to set up coordination protocol,” Mendoza lamented. “A simple dedicated frontdesk for repatriation and coordination with the IATF could have been established early on.”

“Three weeks into the ECQ, key government agencies still display no proper coordination to ensure proper processing and assistance for the seamless quarantine, housing and return trip of laid-off, displaced and stranded OFWs back to the country and onwards to their hometowns. They are being PREVENTED from reaching their homes as LGUs block them and turn them away at their boarders,” explained Mendoza.

Mendoza also called on local chief executives to allow entry of returning OFWs.

“They should be back home with their loved ones. How LGUs react to this issue only shows their competence in managing the pandemic,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza also scolded the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on the delay of the USD200 insurance for displaced OFWs.

The lawmaker earlier pointed out the exclusion of financial aid for displaced OFWs under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.

Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello promised to request for fund allocation from the President.

Mendoza warned these Government agencies: “Get your act together amidst estimates that about 400,000 OFWs may be forced to return home within the next 6 months due to job losses in the Middle East, Europe and America.¨

The lawmaker also asked for a clear government policy on possible redeployment to new labor markets of displaced OFWs in case they do not wish to come home.

He said there are about 10 Million Filipinos worldwide, OFW remittances account for at least 10% of the country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth.