"This is clearly a case of highway robbery."
We welcome President Duterte’s order to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to formulate a uniform protocol for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other returning Filipinos from abroad.
Specifically, the IATF is tasked to resolve the controversy on why OFWs and RFs fully vaccinated abroad have to quarantine for 14 days while those vaccinated here in the country quarantine only for three to seven days.
It is notable, too, that the President directed Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who is IATF head, to study Cebu Province’s “modified quarantine protocol” for international arrivals.
The Cebu province local government unit (LGU) requires only three days of quarantine for travelers arriving at Mactan-Cebu International (MCIA) from overseas as long as they get a negative swab test result.
The province has maintained a manageable COVID-19 incidence for 10 straight months under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) unlike Metro Manila which has seen repeated surges in Covid cases.
Cebu is one of the country’s only three airports used as port of entry for international arrivals aside from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Clark International Airport (CIA).
Under IATF rules, all travelers arriving from abroad have to undergo RT-PCR swab test at the airport and proceed to hotels designated as quarantine facilities..
With the rollout of the government vaccination program, OFWs and other RFs fully immunized against COVID in their country of origin are subject to quarantine for two weeks.
For most OFWs, especially those repatriated after losing their jobs abroad due to the pandemic, the lengthy quarantine period adds insult to injury.
Although the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) extends financial assistance to OFW members, the extended stay in quarantine hotels simply aggravates their bankruptcy even before they travel to their respective provinces to rejoin their families.
Non-OFW repatriates who were stranded abroad, have had to shoulder the costs of swab test and accommodation at designated quarantine hotels since the government could not provide sufficient quarantine facilities.
It is clearly a case of highway robbery.
Sadly, OFWs known as modern-day heroes and other returning Filipinos have been milking cows since the Great Luzon Lockdown last year.
We understand the importance of health and safety standards in the face of the continuing pandemic and amid our effort to attain herd immunity through vaccination.
Still, the IATF must be truly fair and just in formulating and implementing quarantine protocol for homecoming Filipinos, particularly OFWs.