More than a month after being stuck in NCR, OFWs complain that they are being dumped like garbage in Metro Manila’s airport terminals. Despite huge sums of money squandered by the government’s national task force in funding overseas propaganda roadshows to delude OFWs into believing that things in the Philippines have changed for the better, it cannot be denied that our repatriated kababayans are being made to feel the maximum brunt of the Duterte regime’s ineptitude. Conditions of OFWs waiting at the airport stunned aid workers from Migrante International and Kilusang Mayo Uno who brought some food rations to our starving balikbayans yesterday.
Famished and made to sit close to heaps of junk airport equipment, our kababayans whom the government repeatedly tag as ‘modern-day heroes’ are treated like outcasts as they haplessly await for their provincial flights. Many of these repatriates are now penniless after a month-long wait for medical services and financial aid that never came. They now rely on meal rations brought to them tardily at the airport. It is mind-boggling at how Duterte’s government officials look impressive at their efficiency in organizing parties and other spectacles but are proven to be repugnant imbeciles when it comes to delivering services for distressed Filipinos.
Migrante International has also received accounts from OFWs themselves that they were asked for their passports at the airport which they are unable to provide because they are being held by their recruitment agencies. Waiting all-day and all-night long, many OFWs deplore that they can’t even take a bath to relieve them from the excruciating heat. Some seafarers recounted that they were already brought to the airport even if they have not yet taken their swab tests.
The hardships inflicted on OFWs by government negligence is already taking its toll. With thousands of seafarers still stranded aboard ships, we still have not seen any action from the Duterte government to come to their aid. A 32-year old seafarer committed suicide recently on a ship called Scarlet Lady owned by Virgin Voyages. Innumerable Filipino migrant workers both sea-based and land-based are already at the height of mental distress. The Duterte government must see to it that psychosocial services be provided to them before and after repatriation.
What could be much worse than the Duterte government’s imminent extortion of OFWs through the resumption of the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike three days from now? Migrante International calls on President Duterte to put a stop on this day-light robbery and focus on helping Filipino migrants at this period of crisis. OFWs are likewise appealing to OWWA to constantly provide their necessities like food, water, toiletries and comfortable waiting areas at the airport. Medical attention and flight priorities must be given to the elderly, pregnant women and physically challenged OFWs. The national government’s coordination with provincial LGUs is a must so as to avoid further troubles for OFWs whose hopes and energies have already been exhausted by the horrible times they spent in government quarantine facilities. As what Filipino migrants have repeatedly demanded before, they want a comprehensive plan to be laid out as 42,000 more are expected to be repatriated in the next few weeks. Enough of the Duterte regime’s garbage-like treatment of OFWs!