RECTO: Treat returning OFWs as heroes

SENATE President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday said overseas Filipinos who are homeward bound have earned the right to be treated as returning heroes who have sacrificed so much for their country.

“They deserve a red carpet welcome. Those who have brought progress to this country should not be shunned as carriers of a disease. To view them as such is fake news most foul,” Recto said.

He said OFWs should be quarantined in comfortable lodgings, and after completing the two-week forced self-isolation, must be reunited with their loved ones without delay.

“Hindi sila dapat maging stranded sa sariling bayan,” Recto said.

“Makaraan ang mahabang taong sakripisyo, gusto nang umuwi ng mga stranded na OFWs sa mga bahay na kanilang pinundar, sa mga bayang tinulungan nilang lumago, sa mga anak na kanilang pinaaral,” he said.

For this to happen, Recto said government should “scale up” quarantine facilities so that more OFWs will be given the green light to return home.

The backlog of Filipinos who want to go home after being rendered jobless by the economic slowdown triggered by COVID-19 is getting bigger, in part due to the closure of Philippine airports to international flights.

“If that is the case, then let us study the option of opening more airports to chartered flights from abroad, in cities where struggling hotels can earn money for hosting OFWs who have been tested as coronavirus-free,” Recto said.

As they reintegrate, OFWs should be seen as “remitters of money and not as bearers of a disease,” Recto said. “Parang isang tatay ‘yan na nagtrabaho buong araw na umuwing gutom at madumi ang gamit.”

Last year, Filipinos abroad sent home P1.7 trillion, Recto said. “That’s P193 million every hour, P4.6 billion per day. That should be seen as the repatriation insurance they’ve been paying.”

“Twenty-five percent of the remittances came from sea-based Filipinos, which entitles those working aboard cruise ships a seamless trip home,” Recto said.

A recent DFA report to the Senate said 33,516 Filipino crew of at least eight cruise lines are awaiting repatriation. “But the figure is higher from this sector alone.”

Including land-based workers, government is bracing for the return of 300,000 Filipinos, victims of the global economic slowdown.

Recto said remittances of OFWs in one country are bigger than gross sales posted by Filipino conglomerates.
“In 2018, P161 billion ang kita ng Jollibee mula sa gabundok na benta ng Chickenjoy at iba pa. But that is smaller than the P191 billion that Filipinos in Saudi Arabia and UAE sent home last year,” Recto said.

“Ang gross revenue ng ABS-CBN na P40 billion in 2018 ay katumbas lamang ng anim na buwang remittance ng mga Pinoy sa UK,” Recto said.

“In the case of Manila Water, its 2018 gross sales of P18.5 billion is five months’ worth of remittances of our bagong bayanis in tiny Qatar,” he added.

“And Filipinos in Singapore sent home P24 billion more than the P74 billion gross of Cebu Pacific in 2018,” Recto said.