Stranded OFWs can’t go home without ‘required’ virus test
MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in a hotel in Pasay City said they were required to take the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) before they could go back to their provinces and were being charged P3,000 for it.
In a phone interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday, “Helena,” who worked as a domestic helper in Kuwait and was among those sent home under the mass amnesty repatriation program there, said PRC personnel visited them on Monday and said the test would cost each of them P3,000, with the amount deducted from their Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) accounts.
She said she and her fellow OFWs had no money.
“They told us we could not go home without the Covid-19 test … They asked us if we have PhilHealth. But shouldn’t the COVID tests be shouldered by the government?” she asked.
Helena and 103 other OFWs are overstaying at Liza Lodge, where their food and accommodations are being sponsored by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Most of them have stayed beyond the 14-day quarantine required under the Luzon-wide lockdown.
The lockdown of Metro Manila, which was to end on April 30, has been extended to May 15.
Earlier, the OWWA sought the help of the Philippine Air Force and local government officials to help bring the OFWs home.
Helena said she badly wanted to return to Camiguin province to see her children.
“We hope we can go home soon. We do not have money to buy even our personal necessities like shampoo, soap and sanitary napkins. We have been depending on other OFWs with spare money,” she said.
“Grace,” 25, was to go home to Quirino province but the mayor of her town required that she be tested and certified clear of COVID-19.
Shelter for abused OFWs
Most of those staying at the hotel came from a shelter for abused, distressed and runaway OFWs in Kuwait. They had been unemployed for more than a month and had no money when they availed themselves of the mass amnesty repatriation program.
Last April 26, a 42-year-old woman repatriated from Kuwait and staying at the hotel allegedly took her life.
A number of the OFWs have been experiencing anxiety and depression, like “Jane,” who has reportedly been seen banging her head on a wall.
She said she cut short her employment as a domestic helper in Kuwait after her employer threatened to kill her. “I really want to see my two sons in the province,” Jane said, adding that her problems included an unfaithful husband.
Helena said she hoped the OWWA would give them the promised P10,000 cash aid so they could start their own livelihood in their respective provinces. She said most of those who had been sent home were not given the promised funds.
“I hope to buy a pig or a goat to raise and sell when I get home,” she added.
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