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OWWA needs to provide decent quarantine shelters for returning OFWs

Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to provide more decent quarantine homes for returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to ensure their health and safety during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.


PASAY CITY, Philippines – Fleets of planes of several airlines lay grounded and idle at a quiet and inactive Ninoy Aquino International Airport, amid massive travel restrictions as part of the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19 crisis, 26 April 2020. Senator Win Gatchalian meanwhile said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) can tap its trust fund to provide decent accommodation to returning OFWs to undergo mandatory 14-day facility-quarantine. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Gatchalian deplored the condition of repatriated migrant workers who share a cramped room in an OWWA shelter house in the Philippines, as shared by a male OFW through the social media. The male voice behind the video, who sounded disappointed, said they were taken care of in a quarantine facility in Kuwait and made sure that they observed social distancing but their dire situation at the OWWA quarantine shelter back here at home shows total disregard for stringent quarantine measures. They were even asked to join OFWs from Dubai and South Korea in the said quarantine area.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has issued a directive that all OFWs arriving in the Philippines are required to undergo a 14-day facility-based quarantine. They are also required to undergo rapid testing for the novel coronavirus.

Gatchalian said there are also many OFWs who take their rants to social media about the poor sanitation and concerns on health protocols in some makeshift quarantine sites put up by the government. If this will not be addressed soon, Gatchalian fears the country might face a similar consequence like that in Singapore which is now being battered by a second wave of infection after its government overlooked the conditions in some congested areas where many migrant workers live.

“We are placing all OFWs arriving under quarantine in government-sponsored facilities in order to prevent the possibility of wider coronavirus infection in the country. But cramping all of them in a small room is a recipe for disaster. Its like we are incubating time bombs with devastating consequences,” said Gatchalian.

The senator said that OWWA can tap into its P19.4 billion trust fund of its members to provide them with decent quarantine homes and other needs during their 14-day quarantine period. Even if OWWA’s trust fund is not primarily intended for repatriation purposes, Gatchalian said the government agency should focus all its efforts and resources for the emergency repatriation of OFWs, especially during crucial times like these.

OWWA can also tap the help of the hotel sector in providing temporary quarantine areas, according to Gatchalian.