OFWs in Lebanon flock to PH Embassy to register for mass repatriation

Marje Pelayo   •   December 26, 2019   •   875

MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) flocked to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to avail of the free mass repatriation scheduled for February next year.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on its website said most of those who applied for repatriation were women with some children in tow.

“This free repatriation project is the Philippine Government’s response to the numerous requests received by the Embassy from Filipino workers who have long overstayed or have recently lost jobs and income opportunities as the country is suffering from economic and financial woes,” the DFA posted on its website.”

The Embassy announced the opportunity on December 3, 2019, then started the registration on December 15, 2019.

Since then, thousands of Filipinos living and working in Lebanon surged the Embassy along with their family members to register.

Applicants were informed to personally come to the Embassy to fill out forms and submit the necessary documents such as passports, birth certificates, and marriage certificates if married to avail of the one-time mass repatriation program.

The Philippine government assured to provide free air tickets and settle the penalties of those who will be issued clearance by the Lebanese immigration authorities prior to the repatriation.

Nueva Ecija appeals to OWWA for better system on returning OFWs

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

The Nueva Ecija Provincial Government has appealed to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to have a better system on returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Atty. OJ Cornejo, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Assessor’s Office, said it has become a challenge for the provincial government to verify if the returning OFWs are negative of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

He said the OFWs do not have sufficient documents to prove that they have tested negative for COVID-19.

“Nag-message po ulit sila Sunday night na may uuwing dalawa pero wala pa iyong documents. Hindi pa nila pinapadala so hindi po ma-approve. We need to see po muna iyong negative result ng test and iyong quarantine certificate na nag-undergo na talaga quarantine iyong OFW (They sent a message Sunday night that two OFWs are returning but they have no documents yet. They haven’t sent it yet so it wasn’t approved. We first need to see the negative result of the test and the certificate that they underwent quarantine),” he said.

Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali said they need a more accurate list from OWWA so that they will be able to implement the proper safety protocols for returning OFWs.

“For instance pupunta pala ng Aurora pero Nueva Ecija ang nakalagay, so importante na makuha natin ang tamang listahan so that ang ating mga mayors, LGUs, will be able to prepare sa ating returning OFWs (For instance, they are going to Aurora but the document says Nueva Ecija. So it’s important for us to get the right list so that our mayors, LGU, will be able to prepare for our returning OFWs),” he said.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) previously reported that 24,000 OFWs will be returning to the country in the coming days and around 40,000 by next month. AAC (with reports from Danny Munar)

DILG warns of charges vs LGUs that reject entry of returning OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   May 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has warned local government units (LGU) of facing charges for rejecting overseas Filipinos returning to their localities after serving their quarantine period for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Año stressed that non-acceptance of OFWs who wish to return to their hometowns would mean violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and would incur serious consequences.

“Hindi pwede na sasabihin ninyo na: ‘Zero COVID kami kaya hindi kami tatanggap ng OFW.’ Hindi pwede iyan, (You can’t say: “We’re zero COVID so we will not accept OFWs.” That’s not acceptable),” Año said.

“I myself will make sure na hahabulin ko kayo (to go after you),” he warned.

Secretary Año emphasized the importance of proper coordination between the LGU and the national government in ferrying OFWs to their respective hometowns.

With proper communication, the LGU will be able to plan ahead for the arrivals of the OFWs and provide them the much-needed assistance.

“Ang gusto ko may tatlong araw na aabisuhan ang ating mga LGUs bago ang biyahe kasi maghahanda pa iyan ng sasakyan na magsusundo pati ang kanilang isolation facilities ay ihahanda nila at syempre dapat alam nila ang pangalan ng mga uuwi,” Año explained.

(What I want is to inform LGUs three days ahead of the scheduled trip because they need to prepare transportation and they need to set up their isolation facilities. Also, they need to know the names of those arriving.)

Criticisms have been mounting with regard to the government’s handling of OFWs in quarantine facilities as they have been delayed for so long in addition to the hassle of getting their COVID-19 clearance to finally go home. 

One complaint came from Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez who vented his ire on Facebook after a number of OFWs were sent to his locality without proper coordination. MNP (with details from Joan Nano)

Duterte gives ultimatum to gov’t agencies to send home 24,000 OFWs stranded in quarantine facilities

Marje Pelayo   •   May 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has given concerned government agencies a week to send home all 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who remain stranded in quarantine facilities. 

Specifically, the President addressed the matter to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Health (DOH). 

The President’s ultimatum stemmed from complaints coming from OFWs in government quarantine facilities due to the slow-paced processing of their swab test results for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is mandatory for arriving OFWs.

“Sang-ayon po sa Presidente, binibigyan niyang otoridad ang lahat ng mga opisyales ng mga departamentong ito na gamitin po ang lahat ng resources ng ating gobyerno para masiguradong makauwi ngayong linggo ang ating mga kababayan,” Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque announced.

OWWA earlier explained that the results of swab tests have been delayed because of the number of arriving OFWs.

Malacañang added that the President wants to strengthen the country’s capacity in reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) testing in the provinces so that returning OFWs can go straight to their localities and be tested there.

“Sabi rin po ng ating presidente, kinakailangang palawakin ang kakayahan ng ating mga probinsya na magkaroon ng RT-PCR test para sa ganun po ang mga susunod na darating na OFWs ay doon na po sa kanilang mga probinsya mag-quarantine at doon na po sila magpapa-pcr test,” Roque said. 

DOLE, meanwhile, promised to send home OFWs who have been cleared of COVID-19 in three days with the help of the OWWA and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). 

“The composite team of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will arrange in the next three days for daily trips for 8,000 OFWs via the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) and the NAIA Terminal,” DOLE’s statement read. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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