The Inter-Agency Task Force is being urged to revamp the testing and quarantine protocols for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) due to soaring additional expenses and logistics dilemma.
Earlier in February, the mandatory PCR test upon arrival for OFWs was modified; they now have to undergo quarantine for five days before the PCR test is done.
Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Head of Molecular Laboratories Dr. Paulyn Jean Ubial called the current testing protocol for OFWs an “operational nightmare” as members of the Philippine Coast Guard visit more than 100 hotels daily, in order to conduct swab test among returning OFWs.
PRC Chairman & CEO Sen. Richard Gordon added that some OFWs bear the brunt of the ‘psychological impact’ of being left stranded in quarantine facilities for weeks. It’s an additional cost for non-OFWs, meanwhile, to extend their stay in hotels.
“Nabibigatan ang gobyerno, nabibigatan lalo ang tao,” Gordon said in a radio show on Sunday. “Dapat makita nila ang problema ng Coast Guard, ng airport, ng mga hotel, at ng mga medical technologists at healthcare workers.”
Meanwhile, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac echoed the call of the senator. “I agree na kailangan talagang repasuhin ’yung process given the sentiments ng ating OFWs, at ’yung mga logistics issues natin and budgetary issues sa ngayon.”
The cost of quarantine hotels being shouldered by the government for returning OFWs has skyrocketed up to 300 percent since the sudden change in quarantine protocols implemented by the Inter-Agency Task Force.
He said around 9,500 OFWs are currently in different hotels in Metro Manila and waiting for their PCR test results. If this trend in numbers continues, the PHP6.2 billion available fund of OWWA may soon be depleted.
The agency has already requested for a PHP9.8 billion additional budget from the government.