In order to facilitate the return of OFWs affected by the global coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered all its regional offices to establish their respective OFW Desks and to designate desk officers in the regions, provinces, highly-urbanized cities (HUC), and independent component cities (ICC).
“We have been receiving reports that some OFWs are being barred from entering their communities or otherwise prevented to go to their designated health facilities to undergo their mandatory 14-day quarantine,” says DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
“Miscommunication and misinformation should both be out of the question. Kaya magkakaroon ang Kagawaran ng mga OFW Desk sa Regional Offices pati ang pagtatalaga ng desk officer sa bawat rehiyon, lalawigan, at lungsod. Tutulungan natin silang makauwi sa kanilang mga kaanak pagkatapos ng required quarantine period,” he adds.
In DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2020-075, Año directed all regional directors and the BARMM Minister of Local Government to designate the Local Government Operations Officer (LGOO) of DILG City and Municipal Field Offices to be the DILG OFW Desk Officer of the concerned component cities and municipalities.
According to the DILG Secretary, the main task of the designated DILG OFW Desk Officer is to immediately coordinate with the local chief executive (LCE) concerned and provide the relevant information about the arriving OFWs. They must ensure that local government units (LGUs), including the BARMM, provide all the necessary assistance to the OFWs.
The OFW Desk Officer shall also monitor the health status of all Filipino repatriates within their respective jurisdictions through the city or municipal health workers, barangay health workers, or members of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs).
Año said that the creation of the DILG OFW Desks is in line with Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID)’s Resolution No. 14 that enjoins the accommodation of distressed OFWs.
With many LGUs transitioning on May 1, 2020 from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ) for being low-risk areas, Año addressed the likelihood that many OFWs will want to return to their provinces.
When asked during the 12th L!stong Ugnayan Online Forum of the Local Government Academy on whether OFWs can proceed directly to their home province to begin the mandatory 14-day quarantine, Año maintained that repatriates coming home must undergo the isolation process in Metro Manila first.
“Mahirap iyon kasi meron na tayong insidente na nalusutan tayo. Sabi ay COVID-free siya pagkatapos siya raw ay okay na at nag-quarantine na. Pagkatapos umuwi ng bahay, nakapag-infect siya. Mahirap iyong ganoon,” he said.
“Katulad noong nangyari sa Cebu, naging 200 [positive COVID-19 cases] talaga siya, mahirap iyong ganoon. Para siguraduhin natin na safe talaga, dito [Metro Manila] na lang muna sila mag-quarantine bago natin ibigay sa LGUs. Pagdating sa LGUs, kung requirement ng LGUs ay mag-quarantine pa siya, puwede na siyang ‘home quarantine,” Año added.
The DILG Secretary recently said that at least 8,000 OFWs have returned to the country which were all subjected to the mandatory 14-day quarantine.