On Wednesday, (April 21), President Rodrigo Duterte hinted that he’s not yet ready to grant a request for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to be allowed to reduce the number of days in quarantine so that they could go home earlier.
OFWs and other Filipino travellers are required first to go on 14-day quarantine and have a negative COVID-19 test result before they could be allowed to return to the Philippines.
Despite Requests from OFWs, Duterte Won’t Cut Quarantine Period Short
In line with this, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III asked President Duterte if the quarantine could be shortened as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was already overwhelmed by the huge number of OFWs who wanted to come home, the Inquirer reported.
However, Duterte told Bello: “I’m quite not comfortable with the relaxation [in requirements] that’s being brought about now. So let us see.”
“There is no compromise here. So I won’t compromise,” Duterte added, speaking partly in Filipino. “So just an off-the-cuff statement before we make the final decision: I cannot, I am not ready for a compromise — especially now.”
According to Leo Cacdac, administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), data from the agency reveal that there are around 6,500 OFWs staying in quarantine facilities — a manageable number compared to the previous 10,000.
But the problem of DOLE — the mother agency of OWWA — is that its funding may not be enough to support the continued quarantine of returning OFWs.
For their part, Dr. Cynthia Saloma, executive director of the Philippine Genome Center, said in Wednesday’s briefing that the government would have to enforce a strict quarantine for the OFWs.
“In our studies, Mr. President, based on genomic sequences, if just one [infected case] gets through, it will spawn many others,” Saloma said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“If you see the genetic tree of the virus, just one case that slips through, it will give birth to five others, and those five will give birth to other infections and so on And this is also what we see in cases of the B.1.1.7, the UK, variant and this South African variant,” she emphasized.
“As you know, Mr. President, if we let them go home — you know how exuberant we Filipinos are, Mr. President — it will be a difficult situation. They will chat with their neighbours, their siblings, their friends. So, even if we let them go home, or at least go to their LGU [local government unit], we really need to enforce strict quarantine,” she went on.
The country faces a COVID-19 surge that health experts attribute mainly to new variants.