SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, chaired by Rep. Democrito Mendoza (Party-list, TUCP), on its first online meeting on Friday, attended to the precarious conditions faced by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) while stranded in quarantine facilities.
Mendoza said there is seemingly a disconnect in the policies of the national government -- the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Mendoza also cited the problems of the local government units. “Sa mga governors, sa mga mayors, and that is the very reason why they are stranded. So we really have to find a solution kung sino ang magbabayad sa extra quarantine (days) nila. Kasi right now, if they have to go home, additional 14 days na naman, or not to mention the stranded cost pag stranded for two months,” he said.
Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas discussed the slow release of quarantine certificates to repatriates. She received reports of OFWs held up in quarantine facilities despite the release of their testing results. She wanted to find out the choking point in the quarantine procedure.
Brosas added that the issuance of test results by the Red Cross takes a long time. She likewise pointed out that, in addition to this, OFWs are not able to go home because of the delayed release of quarantine certificates from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
“They have to stay for 10 days, so dagdag gastos dahil stranded iyong ating mga OFWs. So we really have to look at the procedure ng PCG kung saan bumabara dito, kung ano iyong kanilang ginagawa sa kasalukuyan,” she said.
Brosas also raised the reported cases of OFWs getting infected by the COVID-19 virus because of their prolonged stay in these quarantine facilities.
She then called on the Red Cross to conduct an immediate processing and release of test results. She said that if an OFW has complied with the 14-day quarantine and tested negative of the virus, then the processing and release of the OFW's certificate should be done immediately.
Committee on Economic Affairs Chair Rep. Sharon Garin (Party-list, AAMBIS-OWA) negated OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac's statement that their agency is in complete control of the needs of repatriates. Garin noted that many NGOs are actually pouring in their own resources to help the OFWs.
“It is not true that OWWA is totally in control of everything, ang tagal ko nang hinihingi iyan, wala sila, nagtatagal sila. Nagbo-board sila, pinapagbayad sila ng agencies nila sa boarding house nila. Walang pinapakain,” Garin said.
Several OFWs who joined the committee meeting shared their experiences and struggles in quarantine facilities.
Cacdac assured that he is coordinating with the concerned offices to provide assistance to OFWs.