Government inefficiency cause of long OFW quarantines, threats to health and safety of OFWs and waste of money

OFW group Migrante International condemned the Duterte government’s inefficiency in handling Covid-19 testing and quarantine for returning OFWs, saying it is the “elephant in the room” in discussions on the matter between President Rodrigo Duterte and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

In a taped meeting on Wednesday, Bello proposed that the quarantine period for OFWs be shortened, citing OFW complaints and the heavy burden on government finances. During the meeting, the possibility of conducting PCR tests among our returning OFWs be optional was also discussed.

Migrante International said that mass testing is critical to protecting our migrant workers, their families and communities and must be prioritized by the Duterte government. Government inefficiency in conducting and releasing the results of the PCR test is the reason why the quarantine period for returning OFWs is taking a long time and has become costly for the government.

“Hearing Duterte and Bello talk about returning OFWs’ quarantine period is like seeing the blind lead the blind. They both want to be heroes for OFWs but they’re both villains. It is the Duterte government’s inefficiency in testing that’s causing lengthy quarantine periods and increasing costs for these. So many OFWs have suffered and so much resources have been wasted because #DutertePalpak,” said Joanna Concepcion, Migrante International chairperson.

Migrante International criticized Duterte for projecting hisgovernment’s inefficiency in Covid-19 testing as compassion for OFWs, even as it criticized Bello for citing government finances as reason for proposing to shorten the quarantine period.

“Duterte tries to portray a long quarantine period as compassion, when it is in fact the opposite — cruelty. Refusing to address his government’s inefficiency while time and time again neglecting the importance of mass testing in its entire Covid-19 response, he is resorting to theatrics to present its weak point as a strong point. This is most disgusting.” Concepcion added.

“If Duterte is really listening to OFWs’ complaints, he would know the immediate cause of their problems is government inefficiency. It is enraging that the Duterte government is even entertaining a streamline in the process of quarantine in order to cut costs, completely disregarding the need to protect the health and safety of our migrant workers. The government should not withhold resources that actually exist from OFWs — including thousands who are stranded and waiting for government repatriation,” she said.

The group said that many OFWs have complained of the many days of delay in Covid-19 testing and the delays in releasing the test results. As such, it said, quarantine eats up the much-needed, hard-earned, yearned-for and short vacation leaves of many OFWs.

“The Duterte government’s inefficiency in its repatriation and
quarantine process have already posed grave health risks including mental health problems among our displaced migrant workers. We cannot forget that one OFW have committed suicide last year inside a government quarantine shelter in Pasay. This is yet another addition to the many, many reasons why Duterte should resign immediately. To solve government inefficiency, Duterte should vacate his post,” Concepcion stated.