PRC’s decision to stop swab testing affects returning OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020   •   841

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III admits that the decision of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to stop conducting swab tests due to PhilHealth’s unsettled bills with them have greatly affected the returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

PhilHealth’s outstanding bill with PRC has already amounted to more than P930-million.

Bello said around 4,000 overseas Filipino workers have been stranded in the quarantine hotels they are currently billeted. And the longer they stay in these hotels, the greater the burden on the government that is shouldering the expenses in these hotels.

In the past, the DOLE had been able to send home up to 3,000 OFWs daily after undergoing swab tests and quarantine. To date, it can only send home around 300 OFWs every day.

“They are staying longer. While before they can stay for 3 to four days, now they already stay beyond one week and that’s our problem. There are expenses in taking care of our OFWs. So the sooner the issue of payment is resolved, the better for the OFWs and the better for the finances of our government,” Bello said.

The DOLE chief is hoping that the PhilHealth-PRC issue will be resolved as around 100,000 more OFWs are due to be repatriated before the year ends.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is asking the returning OFWs for their cooperation and patience for the delay of the issuance of result of their swab tests.

PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said they have returned to manually encoding the information of these returning OFWs.

“So pagdating po sa airport, katulad ng dati, imbis na CIF po na pinifill-upan bago po dumating dito na sa website ng red cross, e ngayon po iniinterview namin isa-isa yung mga OFW at kinukunan ng background. At pagkatapos po nun, kinukunan ng swab test, maging yun pong dati na mga specimen po ay nilalagyan na rin ng manual na pangalan at kung kelan na swab di katulad ng dati na bar code,” said Balilo.

This, Balilo said, is why it is taking the process up to four to five days rather than finishing it in just one day following PRC’s decision.

Despite this, Balilo said there are now 12 hospitals that will accept and process the RT-PCR tests of OFWs.

“Magiging capacity po sa isang araw po kaya po ng mga 4,000 hanggang 4,500 po na iti-test,” he said.

Balilo added that the PCG will augment its personnel to lessen the delay due to the manual encoding.

The official also said they are finding ways to return to automation or electronic process encoding of individual information.

“On our part, nagpadala na po kami ng mga tauhan ng mga IT personnel para po magaya natin kung ano man ang sistema na pina-iiral ng Red Cross at sa loob po ng lalong madaling panahon ay maresolba natin itong delay,” Balilo said.

Filipinos, Americans top holiday arrivals

Maris Federez   •   December 27, 2021

PASAY, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday reported that Filipinos top airport arrivals for December 2021.

BI data showed that 141,216 Filipinos, mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arrived during the holiday season, according to a BI statement released December 27.

This was followed by Americans with 12,455 arrivals, Canadians with 2,805, and Japanese with 1,645.

“This is expected since many of our kababayans who are now living abroad wish to spend the holidays here with their families,” said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente.

BI Port Operations Division Chief Atty. Carlos Capulong, meanwhile, said that arrivals for December 24 and 25 doubled compared to last year’s figures.

“Last year, there were only 5,478 arrivals for the two days, while this year, it increased 100% to 11,074 for the Christmas eve and Christmas day,” said Capulong.

“While the numbers are still relatively low, we are confident that this increase will continue until next year, given the government’s aggressive vaccination campaign,” he stated.

Capulong also thanked immigration officers who were on duty during the holiday.

“Our officers sacrifice their time with their families to render their duty and provide service for incoming and outgoing passengers,” said Capulong.

Frontliners were barred from going on vacations during the peak season, the statement said.

DOLE to inoculate 2k OFWs set for deployment

Maris Federez   •   November 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is set to conduct another round of inoculation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on Wednesday, (November 10).

In a statement, the DOLE said the vaccination of OFWs will be held at the Labor Governance Learning Center (LGLC), DOLE Building in Intramuros Manila.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that they have allocated some 2,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines donated by the government of Brunei to the Philippines for the inoculation of OFWs who are set for deployment.

“I personally thank the Brunei government for donating the vaccines for our general population, specifically our OFWs. This will not only help accelerate the administration of the vaccines to thousands of Filipinos but will fast-track the deployment of our OFWs abroad,” Bello said.

Although the vaccination is on a first-come, first-served basis, OFWs who will be deployed in Brunei will be prioritized.

Bello said he has directed recruitment agencies to bring unvaccinated OFW-applicants to the designated vaccination site.

The labor chief added that he has sought the assistance of the Local Health Department of the City of Manila to administer the vaccination. —/mbmf

PH to re-deploy OFWs after South Korea lifts restrictions – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   November 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers will soon be re-deployed to South Korea after entry restrictions into the country have been lifted, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

In a statement on Sunday, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he has directed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to commence the processing of deployment of workers as he welcomed the South Korean government’s decision.

“This is a very good news not only to our EPS (entry permit system) workers and their families, but also to the Korean employers who have been waiting for our workers to return,” he said.

Last Friday, Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) announced it will allow the entry of workers under EPS from all sending countries, including the Philippines starting this November.

According to MOEL, the entry of EPS workers will be subject to pre-entry measures such as full vaccination and negative PCR test results, and post-entry measures such as mandatory quarantine and PCR testing.

The Korean Embassy in the Philippines said it is awaiting guidelines from the South Korean government on the issuance of E9 visas to Filipino EPS workers.

Bello said he has directed the POEA to immediately meet with the Korean government officials to discuss the requirements and procedures for the re-entry of EPS workers to Korea, in coordination with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the Philippine Embassy in Seoul.

Since 2004, the Philippines has been sending Filipino workers to Korea under a government-to-government cooperation agreement on EPS.

The deployment of workers was temporarily halted in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.

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