BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Lack of coordination and long waits.
According to Bacolod Councilor Israel Salanga, who heads the Action Team on Returning OFWs, these were apparent during the repatriation process of the returning OFWs and stranded passengers who came home last night.
The councilor, in his Facebook page, said that they were informed at 9:30 p.m. of the arrival of the sweeper flight carrying the returnees, forcing the Bacolod-Silay Airport to open.
Fifty-five OFWs arrived by 11:30 p.m., so the local officials went through with proper protocols of disinfecting, including checking their records on the results of their RT-PCR tests.
They also had to produce dinner even at midnight as some had been stranded in Manila for two days, and had thus scarcely eaten.
The team, he added, also had to fetch the nurses to be on duty at the designated tourist inns, as well as scout for police personnel at 1:30 a.m.
“The initial information was for us that the flight was cancelled so, the pension house that was supposed to accommodate them had already closed,” the councilor recounted.
The OFWs were finally able to settle in the quarantine facility by 3:30 in the morning.
“We have anticipated the massive [influx of repatriates],” he said. The issue, he said, was the lack of coordination and the last-minute information, which also led to the last-minute preparations on the ground.
“We are willing to help the OFWs, but we are not magicians,” he said, saying how, earlier today, they were informed that there were sleeper flights arriving at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
President Duterte had earlier given a one-week deadline to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Department of Health, and the Department of Labor and Employment to facilitate the repatriation of stranded OFWS and other passengers.
The Department of Interior and Local Government issued a memo last 25 May, giving all government units and pertinent agencies three days – from 25 to 27 May – to facilitate the return of 24,000 stranded passengers and OFWs at a rate of 8,000 a day.