Over 4K OFWs ‘stranded’ due to testing delay caused by PRC-PhilHealth issue
MANILA, Philippines — Over 4,000 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are currently stranded in different quarantine facilities in Metro Manila due to the delayed release of their swab results following the stoppage of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) COVID-19 testing services.
According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, only around 300 OFWs are being sent to their home provinces daily since PRC stopped its testing services. This is way lower from the usual daily average of 1,000 to 3,000.
“In a manner of speaking, they are now stranded. We’re going again to neighboring areas to look for quarantine hotels for them,” Bello said Tuesday in a televised Palace press briefing.
“Right now we are talking of at least 4,000 plus (OFWs) stranded in Metro Manila,” he added.
Since October 16, PRC has stopped conducting tests on arriving overseas Filipino workers, passengers in airports and seaports, individuals asking for COVID-19 tests in government swabbing facilities, front-line health and government workers, and others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the Department of Health.
The humanitarian organization said these services cannot resume until the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) pays its overdue balance of P930.99 million.
“The sooner this issue of payment is resolved, the better for our OFWs and the better for the finances of our government. Ang laking problema niyan (This is a big problem),” he said.
In a taped speech aired Monday night, President Duterte assured that the government will pay PhilHealth’s debt.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said that the government will settle at least half of the PhilHealth debt “at the soonest possible time.”
Asked how soon, Roque said: “I wish I could say within the day pero siyempre po may mga papeles naman na ginagawa. But I can assure you that at least half of that will be paid at the soonest possible time.”
The PRC has played a key role in COVID-19 screening in the country. It has conducted over one million coronavirus tests, accounting for over 25% of the total coronavirus testing done in the entire country.
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