Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia has appealed today, 4 May, to the National Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases, through Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, if lead agencies in charge of sending home OFWs to the provinces can adopt a “first arrive-first go home” system for those homebound for Bacolod.
Leonardia said he had been getting a lot of complaints from OFWs already stranded in Metro Manila over the last 2 months but were unable to secure a firm reply from lead agencies in Manila on their inclusion in future sea repatriation voyages to Western Visayas. These OFWs also wanted to find out the criteria used by Manila authorities in deciding who gets to be sent home first.
The mayor, in a press release furnished to local media, further requested the NIATF for information on which lead agencies the Bacolod LGU can coordinate with regarding sea-based OFWs as against land-based OFWs because the recent organization of handlers for the repatriation program did not make this clear.
The same letter was furnished to OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, MARINA Administrator Robert Empedrad, NDRRMC Executive Director and OCD Administrator Usec. Ricardo Jalad, Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia, and Western Visayas IATF chair Jose Roberto Nuñez.
The mayor also requested Nograles to relay to the selection panels the fact that while Bacolod is willing to accept homebound OFWs, such acceptance is not automatic; rather, it shall be made on a per trip basis.
“We have to ensure first that the number of returnees shall still be within the quota of quarantine spaces acceptable to our local health authorities,” Leonardia stressed.
“We are willing to accept the repatriation of OFWs but [it should be done] in batches and in numbers acceptable to us so that any public health risks that may arise from these arrivals can still be managed within the City’s medical resources,” the mayor explained.
In addition, those OFWs approved by authorities in Manila to become part of any homecoming batch must comply with all the pre-boarding and post-disembarkation health protocols of the Bacolod LGU.
Among the pre-boarding health protocols is that the OFW should have completed a 14-day quarantine during which he had not developed symptoms of COVID-19, and has tested negative for COVID-19 using the RT-PCR method, and remained asymptomatic upon boarding any transport for home.
Then, upon arrival in Bacolod, post-disembarkation health protocols require that returnees shall, again, immediately undergo another quarantine of at least 14 days in any of the quarantine centers of the City (these are in public schools unless the OWWA shall provide hotel quarantine at its expense) during which the returnees shall, again, be swabbed for COVID-testing (RT-PCR method). Only upon completion of the quarantine period and negative test results will the OFW be allowed to finally go home.
“Non-compliance of these protocols required by our City Health Office shall be grounds for our LGU to refuse entry to these OFWs upon their arrival in Bacolod City because we also have to keep safe the rest of the people in our City,” the mayor further stressed.*/Bacolod City PIO