‘Unwelcomed modern-day heroes:’ OFWs feel ‘discriminated’ over quarantine rules, Senate told
MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) feel “unwelcomed” and “discriminated” over the government’s quarantine rules, which subjects them to a longer period of isolation, an advocate of Filipino migrant workers’ rights told the Senate Tuesday.
“I can only add and share the sentiments of our OFWs, they feel that yung automatic response has always been border control,” Susan Ople, former labor undersecretary and president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said during a hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole.
“We’re not against yung pag prevent [ng spread of COVID variants]…but please be spreaders of hope din kasi kawawa yung mga OFWs po, ang feeling nila they are being discriminated [against]. They are entitled to come home and they are entitled to time spent with family,” she added.
Ople lamented that while OFWs continue to be subjected to 10 days of quarantine, fully-vaccinated senior citizens are now permitted to go out and foreign investors who have completed their inoculation are allowed “to come in without quarantine.”
“Why are we discriminating against OFWs? Lalo na yung mga may dalawang vaccination and saying na baka peke yung vaccination cards nila? Kaya humihingi kami ng dialogue with IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” she added.
When asked about the supposed exemption of foreign investors from quarantine protocols, vaccine czar and National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the number of those who are exempted are “very limited.”
“Yung binigyan ng exemption ng IATF are highly technical people, basically yung mga nasa power (industry) at saka ibang pagka once di po natin in-allow, may possibility na either yung mga projects sa BBB (Build, Build, Build) and yung mga $500 million or iba pong mga investment, hindi po makakarating po sa atin,” Galvez told the Senate.
“Yung pinapayagan lang natin, very limited number. Highly exceptional, technical at saka yung high-profile in terms of business investment. Konti lang po ‘yun, mabibilang po natin sa kamay po natin,” he added.
‘Unwelcomed modern-day heroes’
Ople called for a shorter quarantine period for OFWs since the current 10 days will leave them with very little time to spend with their family.
“Kung pwede po, tignan na lang kung paano ma-cut man lang yun (quarantine) ng seven days. 7 days i-test na. Pauwiin na, i-home quarantine kung ayaw niyo na mas maaga (ma-release from quarantine),” she said.
She explained that an OFW is usually allowed 14 to 15 days of emergency leave.
With the two days, it would take for OFWs to return to their home province after their quarantine and go back to the airport to board a flight back to their host country, returning workers will only have three free days to be with their loved ones, according to Ople.
“Kawawa naman po yung mga OFWs, feeling na nga nila sila yung unwelcomed modern-day heroes,” she added.
She also raised the experience of OFWs who are being transferred to quarantine facilities outside Metro Manila due to crowded hotels.
“If you want to prevent [the spread]. then work with them (OFWs), don’t just dictate, consult us. Please consult us and talk to our OFWs,” she said.
She noted that OFWs are often already exposed to the health protocols of other governments and can help the IATF in crafting policies.
“You can even learn from them,” she said. “We agree with all these protocols but let’s not lose our competitive spirit (on overseas employment) along the way and also our sense of compassion, there has to be a way to harmonize all these things.”
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