Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday said all remaining overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in different quarantine facilities tested negative for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will be sent back their homes over the weekend.
In an online media briefing via Zoom, Bello said of the 24,000 OFW, at least 19,000 were already sent home.
“We committed to safely bring home our OFW who have been locked up in various quarantine facilities over an extended period of time,” said Bello.
The Labor chief added that the remaining 5,000 OFW will be sent to their respective cities and provinces hopefully by Saturday.
“We are just short by about 5,000 OFW who are still waiting to be transported back home so as to accomplish what we were tasked to do. As of last night, we were able to send home 19,010 OFW,” said Bello.
“It should be done before Sunday,” he added.
According to Bello, some of the OFW that were on quarantine have stayed in the facility for as long as a month and a half due to unorganized quarantine measures and delays of test results.
“I would really like to apologize to our OFW for the anxiety, discomfort and unwarranted sufferings that we have caused them. I wish to restate that the government did not intend to inconvenience our OFW with prolonged quarantine and delayed results,” said Bello.
The secretary also stressed that while DoLE “simply had no control over the issuances of clearances to them, it is not an excuse for them to do better and assured that the remaining OFW will be sent home before the deadline set by President Duterte as more OFW are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
To prevent a repeat of the seemingly disorderly process of sending home OFW, Bello said he has signed an administrative order creating a ‘Crisis Management Committee,’ a command center set-up at the DoLE Central Office as a repository of data and information on the volume of OFW being repatriated to the country.
The center will guide the labor department in formulating measures and in crafting policies on repatriation, reintegration, and assistance to OFW who have been profiled even before their return to the Philippines.
“With it, we will now know the exact number of stranded OFW, how many of them got infected with COVID-19, and how many were displaced,” said Bello, adding that the center will also be of great help in the global mapping of inbound OFW and even outbound workers who will be deployed to host countries already opened to foreign nationals.
At least 40,000 more returning overseas workers are expected to arrive in the country by next month.